Marketing agency BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty) is using Austin’s homeless population as walking, talking wifi hotspots, because that’s not completely wrong and deplorable or anything.
Seriously, where the fuck do you get off, BBH? This might seem – to marketing types – like one of those “let’s give back to the communuty!” ideas that is the kind of thing one thinks up when they spend $2,000 on rent without batting an eyelid.
But here’s the thing: BBH doesn’t give two shits about the homeless. Essentially, they’re making them wear shirts that advertise the wifi service, and having them march around downtown SXSW areas where hipsters congregate. Also: I just wrote the phrase “Hipsters congregate” and I’m not writing for LIFE magazine in 1963. Anyway, if you want to use the wifi, each person gives them roughly $2 to use the service for fifteen minutes. You know, to make yourself feel better about donating to a homeless dude.
The worst part is: I can see how this would make sense to a lot of people. There are many people out there who think that the homeless are something to steer away from and also feel sorry for, a weird western-world caste system. And people like to check their email, their Facebook. It’s an addiction. What better way to make yourself feel better than by parading around the homeless as your own personal wifi? The language isn’t “I have a wifi hotspot”. It’s “I am a wifi hotspot” – a small difference that highlights a much bigger problem: the identity of the human beings that you’re using as low-paid servants just so you can get your Instagram picture up. It’s a fucking disgusting practice.
While this sort of thing might work as a temporary fix and – on the plus side – put a few dollars into the pockets of Austin’s homeless, it doesn’t attack the real problem of homelessness. It just makes it walk around the party handing out hors d’oeuvres for two dollars a pop, proceeds of which go to a homeless shelter.
What happens after the SXSW party? While the donation is a blessing, the message used to bring it is fucking disgusting, and a massive lack of foresight on BBH’s part. Fire your fucking copywriter. Get someone who can portray the message better, because right now you look like the kind of company that thinks it’s perfectly OK to strip a fellow human being of their dignity and reduce them to a cheap service so a bunch of wankers can check the feedback on their blogs.