BBH Labs caused quite a stir at SXSW with its “Homeless Hotspots” campaign, which turned some of Austin’s homeless into paid sources of Wi-fi service. The marketing firm said it was a way to raise awareness about the issue of homelessness while offering the participants a chance to earn money. Others thought it was degrading.
We asked for your opinion in the latest PRNewser Poll and 57 percent said though the firm had good intentions, the campaign was “misguided.” Nearly 30 percent said the campaign was “great,” raising awareness about the issue in an edgy way. And about 13 percent said it was a “horrible” idea.
A grassroots organization, Picture the Homeless, sent us the clip above via Twitter, which offers one perspective. Note: BBH Labs says on its blog that they’re not doing this for any brand or to make money. Nevertheless, the video does make the point that there are other ways that would be more productive to help the homeless.
Below, The Wall Street Journal talks about both sides of the issue, including some feedback from Clarence, one of the homeless men that participated in the campaign, who seems to have the biggest problem with people thinking he can’t decide for himself whether this is a demeaning job.
The Atlantic takes up this argument also, saying that the participants had to go through an application process to get these jobs. It also acknowledges that the program is a head-on collision between a good cause and our morality.
Our two cents: It’s great to want to help the homeless, but ultimately, there was a better way to do it.