Bumvertising is exactly what it sounds like: Advertising on the homeless.

It started in 2005 when 22-year-old University of Washington grad Ben Rogovy was looking for a cheap way to promote another company he started.

Here’s a quick overview:


View this video on YouTube

The Bumvertising debate has attracted local, national and even international media attention.

Here are the Seven Keys to Responsible Marketing, and how Bumvertising measures up:

  1. It’s not casting responsible, as long as they exploit people desperate for any kind of help.
  2. It’s hard to determine if its environmentally responsible, since Bumvertising’s ads are taped to the bottom of the used cardboard signs used by the homeless.
  3. It’s not socially responsible.
  4. It’s not strategically responsible. This was a tactical idea executed without forethought or consideration of the consequences. Even fringe advertisers run the risk of implying “use our product, you’ll end up like this.” Online poker, casinos and alcohol couldn’t be a worse choice.
  5. It’s not execution responsible. This makes sandwich board marketers look dignified.
  6. It’s not message responsible. Bumvertising clearly doesn’t respect its audiences. And while you might think Bumvertising does break through the clutter, to many, the homeless are like ads already—they’ll avoid them whenever possible.
  7. It’s not ROI responsible. After three years, the only advertisers appear to be other companies started by Bumvertising’s founder, PokerFaceBook.com and StrategicDomination.com—two companies that won’t be appearing on any “fastest growing companies” lists anytime soon. In fact, the first company appears to be abandoned, and both companies shill Bumvertising prominently above the fold.

Bumvertising is a bad advertising idea. It exploits the homeless, no respectable company would associate itself with the practice and it simply doesn’t work.

As an advertising medium, Bumvertising is a failure, but as a way to gain media attention it’s a success.

Rogovy knows this. The Bumvertising blog now features street videos that include altercations with a homeless man and other videos that will be passed around for all the wrong reasons, racking up site visits and increasing Google Adwords revenues.

Like MTV’s Jackass and so many YouTube exploitation videos, it’s outrageous and brings out the worst in human nature.

Even The Daily Show considered Bumvertising unscrupulous:


View this video on YouTube

Ben Rogovy is on his way to becoming the Johnny Knoxville of marketing. He doesn’t mind being known as the “poverty pimp” as long as he continues to get more media attention.

Which makes the whole Bumvertising concept that much more insipid.

Bumvertising: Welcome to the Responsible Marketing Hall of Shame.

I can’t think of a single category that Bumvertising fits, can you?

Comment below to weigh in.

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. . .

Thanks to my colleague Victoria Ostrovskaya for the tip.

Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • Larry D says:

    Lowest of the low.

    This is more than appalling, it’s stereotyping and exploitation at it’s very worst.
    These “bums” are people that need and deserve real help – not a “job” that leverages their bad fortune and habits for the sake of another’s economic gain.

    Advertising related tactics aside… this kind of irresponsible exploitation of humanity should be publically ridiculed as a deep fault in our profession and society. If he really wanted to help them, he’d give them food, money, and assistance in finding the help they need and deserve…without concern for his own gain.

    While his web hits may have increased, his brand value has equally decreased – perhaps at a far greater rate than any gains.

    Disgusting from every perspective. What kind of society are we to allow this kind of obvious, public abuse of those less fortunate?

  • The people that visit his site aren’t going to care, I think. So it won’t hurt his brand — providing — that he NEVER wants to do anything else besides casino marketing for the rest of his life!!

  • Patrick,

    Your opinion is unfortunately not alone. Since 2005, there have been many people who have had problems with the fact that our agency treats homeless men and women like adults, capable of making their own decisions.

    Although I wish I could do more to help the less fortunate, I must remind you that I am running a business, not a charity. Putting a mutually beneficial situation in front of people who have been ignored by the general public is our niche. For their help, we compensate the bums with food, water, and money – a transaction they are grateful for.

    Our new Bumvertising™ video series gives an honest view of actual Bumvertising™ vagrants, and our interactions with them – do these guys seem distraught to you?

    StrategicDomination.com, an excellent multiplayer war game, was not created by our agency, although it would be nice if it had been!

    Regards,

    Ben Rogovy
    President, Bumvertising™
    http://www.bumvertising.com

  • Ben,

    Thank you for the clarification regarding the ownership of StrategicDomination.com. Nice of your client to so prominently display your agency on their homepage.

    I don’t believe anyone believes you are a charity.

    Nor do I believe anyone has a problem with you giving homeless people options. They are adults and it’s not like you are paying them with Night Train.

    The problem lies in the fact that your company is capitalizing on the plight of the homeless in an incredibly insensitive and self-serving way.

    Strictly from a strategic marketing standpoint, I can’t find a single application for Bumvertising that I’d recommend to any client in any category.

    You can do better, Ben.

    In fact, if you did a little good, your company would have a lot more clients.

    Imagine the story you’d have to tell if Bumvertising evolved from a company people are paying attention to for all the wrong reasons, to one they looked up to for all the right ones.

    What might it look like?

    Imagine being able to tell this story instead:

    – – –

    NEWNAME Marketing knows the streets better than anyone. Since we were founded in 2005, we’ve work homeless and at-risk people giving them opportunities while helping clients gain the benefits of advertising in high-traffic areas.

    Necessity is the mother of invention, and the company’s founder, Ben Rogovy, started the company as an inexpensive way to get marketing done for his company, PokerFaceBook.com.

    The concept gained international media attention, due to its unique (but controversial) approach of adding client’s advertising to the bottom of the cardboard signs used by panhandlers. The company’s former name, Bumvertising, was ridiculed far and wide.

    Rogovy’s work with the company opened his eyes to the everyday challenges faced by the homeless, and he changed the business model and the company’s name to NEWNAME Marketing.

    NEWNAME helps companies do well by doing good.

    Our REAL street teams of marketers REALLY know the street. Our sandwich boards share your advertising message and show the world you care about the plight of those less fortunate.

    Our street teams are professional. All are outfitted with fresh shirts and jackets, free.

    They are paid a wage for the work they do, and percentage of all of NEWNAME Marketing’s profits go to homeless charities.

    Let NEWNAME Marketing help you grow your company, show it’s commitment to social responsibility and help provide the homeless with real opportunities.

    Our clients include Quiznos, Sleep Country USA, Washington Mutual Bank, GOOD Chevrolet, etc.

    – – –

    Wow.

    Now there’s a company with a story. Now there’s a company I’d want to talk about.

    In fact, if that’s a company you are interested in building, let me know. I’ll personally help you build it.

    But only if you’ll kill Bumvertising.

    Happy marketing,

    Patrick

  • It sounds like a good idea to me if the individuals that are agreeing to do it are paid a fair amount for their time. Being homeless is no excuse to pay them with food and a little bit of money. Just compensation needs to be paid to these individuals. Perhaps some better sponsors could choose to get involved as well.

  • jon says:

    definitely low.

    in reading ben’s comments, it sounds like a good jumping off point to discuss outsourcing 😉

    j.

  • I just received an email from someone promoting a slightly less offensive version of this advertising here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWPqOxxDWfg

    A step in the right direction, but still not a great place for many companies to promote themselves.

  • Brian says:

    Well here we are years later and bumvertising has long since faded away, but just in case anyone is still reading this, i have found Ben Rogovy in a new venture.  He is now the ‘little man’ behind the curtain  on a website  called Christian Prayer Center. The site make claims of being the best prayer site with ‘thousands of christians that will pray for you. It even has a fake pastor by the name of John Carlson. But  in reality it is just Ben again. With slick graphics and lots of Christian slogans and scriptures it lures the desperate in ,offering miracles through prayer. The catch is (and here’s where Ben makes his money) once you type in your prayer request, you are told you must first make a donation. If your decline, you are hounded to rethink  your choice. You are advised that it is God’s will for you to donate in order to get your payer answered. Ultimately Ben gets your credit card # and then racks up monthly charges.
    Now, If he were a preacher and there were actually folks associated with his prayer center who would pray, then I suppose  it would be like so many other Christian sites offering prayer.  Then it would be a buyer beware situation and the folks would be receiving the prayers advertised. But in ben’s case there is no one praying. There is a service offered(prayer) but not delivered. In this case, his business is not just a scam , it is outright fraud. I have read accounts written by many who in despair paid for prayer  on Ben’s site, only to find their credit cards were being billed without their authorization. 

    Ben Rogovy has sunk to a new low. At least he saw the wisdom of no longer attaching his own name to his bogus enterprises. In this case there is no person being promoted as Ceo or director. just the web entity ‘Pastor John’. But a quick search through the right channels shows Ben as the principle and owner of the website.

    Funny thing is… the guy has a lot of marketing skills and could actually be doing something productive with his young life rather than feeding off of the desperate situations  others have found themselves in. Well, I guess eventually there was a productive purpose found for the common leach ,so maybe there is hope for Ben  yet.

  • […] Marketing Evangelist and blogger, so it makes sense that irresponsible marketing like Bumvertising seriously bums him out (no pun […]

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