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Is it April Fool’s Day, yet? No, this really happened! The international marketing agency of BBH Labs recently outfitted 13 volunteer homeless shelter individuals as “human wireless transmitters” at the South by Southwest technology conference in Austin, Texas. The company provided the individuals with the devices, business cards and T-shirts listing their names followed by “a 4G Hotspot.” The homeless volunteers were told to go to the most densely packed areas of the conference to serve the large crowds that typically overwhelm cellular networks in the area. Each participant was paid $20 a day, plus any tips that conference goers donated in exchange for the wireless service. Needless to say, the marketing campaign has been criticized as “a darkly satirical science-fiction dystopia.”

1. Do a cost/benefit analysis on this marketing campaign. What are the costs?
2. What are the benefits?
3. What are some of the qualitative issues about this strategy that you would include in a report about this marketing campaign? In your report, conclude with a recommendation.


Wortham, J. (2012). “Use of Homeless as Internet Hot Spots Backfires on Marketer,” The New York Times, March 12 (Retrievable online at