Homeless turned into wireless access points at SXSW

A marketing stunt has totally backfired as advertising agency BBH had the splendid idea to turn homeless people at SXSW into wireless hotspots.

The homeless are equipped with technology to turn them into human routers, making otherwise charity-givers into Homeless Hotspot users. A small donation lets you log on.

Ad firm BBH, which is behind the scheme, says it set out with the best of intentions and understands the concern which have since erupted over social networks. The initiative describes itself on its Twitter page as helping “bring Street Newspapers into the digital age” casting itself as a modern take on initiatives like the Big Issue. 

BBH’s blog first said that you’ll “notice strategically positioned individuals wearing Homeless Hotspot t-shirts”. An updated entry attempts to soothe the furious Twitter backlash.

Though it could be argued that turning homeless people into a way to check Facebook is thoroughly dehumanising and demeaning, BBH has said that it becomes the business of the people involved, they get to keep all the money they earn, and that the company has nothing to gain except from, perhaps, exposure. It has certainly got that.

The SXSW trial is a “beta test” but BBH hoped that the platform could be “adopted on a broader scale”.