They say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but international advertising agency Bartle Bogle and Hegarty (BBH) is testing that theory.
In a pathetic grab at some corporate karma, BBH has launched a program at the South By Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas called “Homeless Hot Spots” in which homeless people are literally are turned into 4G MiFi hotspots that can be accessed for a donation.
The participants are recognizable by their T-shirts which introduce them by first name and, of course tell the world of their current living situation.
All you do is approach the poor rube, give them some money and then...stand near them...and answer your e-mail. You can talk to them, I guess.
Perhaps the company could also provide additional homeless people to act as tables for those using iPads.
That wouldn't be any more tasteless!
BBH wants you to think they are doing something for the homeless and that none of this is terribly uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, they address the awkwardness of the whole situation on the website (the tasteful "homelesshotspots.org) when they suggest that if you don't want to actually interact with the tragic figures, you can "donate from afar."
And you thought it was tacky that cellular companies disguise towers as trees!
Also on the website, BBH says the program is meant to help bring street newspapers.
Really? How does that work?
Well, according to BBH by raising awareness of street newspapers and bringing them into the digital age.
Whatever that could possibly matter in this equation?
What the company DOES NOT want you to focus on is that they are USING PEOPLE whose lives are in the skids!
While all proceeds from this "charitable experiment" go to the homeless WiFi reps, let us not be fooled.
This program is not about helping the less fortunate.
It is not about technology or even a tasteless attempt to provide a convenient service.
This offensive plan was concocted for one reason only: To improve the social standing of BBH.
This offensive scheme is merely an entry on BBH's charitable resume. It's apparently their way to compensate for the perceived guilt of being a worldwide powerhouse built on capitalism.
What better way to get street cred than to pander to and use the people who live on the street as pawns.
The fifteenth century humanist Ulrich von Hutten said, "Charity which longs to publish itself, ceases to be charity." In other words, do a good deed, and don't tell anyone about it.
BBH is not only telling the world about it’s “good deed,” it's using the very people they claim to care about as walking billboards for their self-serving cause.
The company is using people down on their luck to promote themselves at a liberal arts festival in Austin, Texas...Come to think of it, that's (evil) genius!
T.J. McCormack is host of "The World of T.J. McCormack."
T.J. McCormack is a communications specialist and commentator. He is a former comedian. Follow him on Twitter@TJMcCormack.