Ad agency BBH wanted to help the homeless during Austin's SXSW conference, so they decided to turn 13 homeless men into walking Wi-Fi hotspots, providing Internet connections for bandwidth-hungry conferencegoers.
The "Homeless Hotspots" sported shirts saying, "I'm _, a 4G hotspot," with a code to text for access. All donations for the service -- made via PayPal -- went to the men themselves.
The project immediately drew criticism from SXSW attendees, some of whom called it "disturbing" and "offensive," or thought it might be a hoax.
"The worry is that these people are suddenly just hardware," said BBH's Saneel Radia, who came up with the campaign, "but frankly, I wouldn't have done this if i didn't believe otherwise," He added, "we're very open to this criticism."
Radia sees the project as an update of the "street newspaper" model, but with a product that's more in-demand than a printed paper.
It remains to be seen whether the model can work outside a crowded tech conference, though -- and, more importantly, how the experience went for the Homeless Hotspots themselves.