At the annual SXSW (South by Southwest) event in Austin, TX, techies swarmed the conference in hopes to examine the latest and greatest in gadgets and interactive media. One of the most controversial displays, however, did not take place in the convention center, but rather outside of it.
That is Clarence, one of many homeless people who live in and around Austin (in shelters) that were contacted by an ad agency in order to help with their campaign. The agency was criticized for asking these individuals to essentially work for the company for $20 per day per person, plus any extra money for the people who connected to the hotspot that is advertised on the individual shirts.
Controversy erupted among the media and public, viewing the situation as a way for a company to take advantage of these individuals and put them on display in a negative light. Many argued that the homeless people should have surrendered their positions as workers for those few days, and that it was a “terrible idea” and “crazy”.
As stated in the Wall Street Journal video, the homeless people who participated as 4g Hotspot enjoyed interacting and connecting to people, and understood that “the web is the future” and saw it as a great chance to make some money. The participants were “very thankful for the opportunity” and were insulted that people thought they should pull out of an event in an attempt to make money. They have embraced the attention that was brought to their individual situations and struggles by making national headlines in hopes of receiving more help.
What do you think of this, from a business owner standpoint, a consumer standpoint, or a homeless participant standpoint? Was this the best way for the agency to publicize their campaign? Watch the video for more details on the matter and please leave a comment!