No Street Smarts

Presenting this week’s boneheaded stunt, brought to you by Dennis Wakabayachi.

Sumaato Advertising’s CEO figured it’d be great fun to hand out pan handling signs to the homeless in Denver. The signs—which included such knee-slapping lines as, “I’m a little short on my Porsche payment” and “At least I’m not spam ming your e-mail!”—were blasted by homeless-advocacy groups as, well, bone headed. But Wakabayachi called the project “kind of syner gistic”—the signs also promoted the agency—and he continues to insist on his Web site that “the homeless are near and dear to us” and “we brought the issues of the homeless back to the forefront.”

Local ad folks weren’t buying it. “It appears to be an attempt to get publicity at any cost,” says Terry Barnhart, chairman of Barnhart/CMI. “The old adage that any media exposure is good exposure isn’t always true. But it’s a free country.” Karsh & Hagan president Pocky Marranzino Jr. was somewhat more forgiving, admitting, “It’s kind of creative.” (Neither had ever heard of Sumaato Advertising.)

Sources speculated that Wakabayachi may have gotten the idea from a presentation by Tracy Wong to the Denver Ad Federation. Wong reportedly spoke about a WongDoody campaign for Widmer Brothers Brewing that included people on the street with signs. “There’s the adage, ‘Creativity is merely the ability to hide your sources,’ ” says Pat Doody, adding, “I’d be very surprised if we were the first people ever to use people on the street carrying signs.”