Earlier this week at SXSW, BBH Labs decided to make homeless people in Austin walking Hotspots
, giving each individual devices, paying them for six hours of work and suggesitng SXSW attendees give a $2 donation to the individual for 15 minutes of time. the stunt, designed to represent "a modernized version of homeless selling street newspapers," quickly became one of the most talked about issues at SXSW, and in my opinion, will probably be pointed to as one of the big PR blunders of 2012.
Polarizing as it was, BBH went on record to defend its actions, saying that it helped attendees interact with individuals they normally wouldn't, and according to this article
Dusty White, one of the participants, said that he was "proud" and would do it again. Critics say that the action was dehumanizing, careless and not well prepared.
When I first read this, I instantly thought about a book I had recently read and highly recommend, "How We Decide
" by Jonah Lehrer. In a nutshell, the book looks at our decision-making process and when going with your 'gut' is to be trusted, and, how sometimes as individuals we can outsmart our 'gut' and rationalize the heck out of our decisions - with rationalization somtimes leading us astray.
After reading about Homeless Hotspots, I'm pretty sure this was a moment in which trusting your 'gut' could have come in handy. When it comes to marketing, trusting your emotional reaction to a campaign is as important and compelling as the rational decision-making process behind it. And, it proves that giving yourself perspective is an absolute must before you take anything to market.
This is an old journalism trick that someone else recently resurfaced, but by simply writing all the headlines that could come out of your activation - good and bad - you can help create distance from a project and give yourself and your team renewed perspective.
Here's another great post
on the issue from blog RSMITHING.
What do you think about this activation? Is all press good press or do you think they went too far?