Bill Sleeper, you are officially our Geek of the Century.

A national television ad for Best Buy, making its debut today, features one of the most inspiring characters we’ve ever profiled on GeekWire, 97-year-old tech enthusiast Bill Sleeper, proudly proclaiming his status as a GeekWire Geek of the Week. It’s nice exposure for GeekWire, to say the least, but more than that, it’s great to see Sleeper getting some well-deserved recognition.

Check out the ad above.

We first met Sleeper a little more than a year ago, sitting around his table at the Merrill Gardens retirement community in Mill Creek, north of Seattle. He demonstrated his favorite mobile apps, wielded his electrostatic wand, showed off the Laser Stage Lighting device on his kitchen counter, and laughed as he talked about putting QR codes on some of his most important hardware to deliver a warning to would-be thieves: “If you steal my walker, the Mafia will hunt you down.”

Sleeper is known for helping his fellow seniors learn to use and appreciate smartphones and computers to enrich and empower their lives. His daughter, Barbara, credits her dad’s smartphone with helping him through the long illness experienced by her mom, Norma, who passed away last year.

Bill Sleeper giving a laser light show in his Mill Creek, Wash. home. (Annie Laurie Malarkey/GeekWire File Photo)

Yes, it was an iPhone at the time, but you can’t blame a guy for changing his loyalties under the circumstances. He’s holding a Samsung Galaxy in the Best Buy spot.

In the ad, Sleeper is featured with his grandson, Dave, who says, “My gift was a smartphone.”

Says Sleeper, showing the GeekWire profile on his phone: “That made me GeekWire’s Geek of the Week. Check me out.”

Here’s the back story: Best Buy found Sleeper via our profile. We knew this was coming a few weeks ago, after someone from the retailer’s ad agency contacted us about it. We immediately signed some paperwork to let them use the GeekWire brand in the ad, but other than that, we weren’t involved.

The exposure is so prominent that some people are asking (half-jokingly, I assume) whether we paid for it. For the record, in case anyone is seriously wondering, we didn’t — but we’ll certainly take it!

Here’s the original Geek of the Week piece, published on Oct. 26, 2011. Also see a video below with a few highlights from my visit last year to Sleeper’s home.

Update: We’re excited to report that Bill will also be joining us for the next GeekWire radio show and podcast. We’ll get the behind-the-scenes story on the ad, talk about his tech advice for seniors and find out about his latest favorite apps. Tune in next weekend on KIRO Radio (97.3 FM in the Seattle region) and GeekWire. You can get every episode using this RSS feed, or subscribe in iTunes.

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  • Kelly Smith

    I am glad that BestBuy is focusing on the human aspect. Not only is it making their stuff more viral because we’re sharing it around, but it’s just a good thing to do. Models and stock photos have their place but when the world is so full of interesting people why fake it? Congrats Geekwire and Bill!

  • Seattle Startup

    Hope you got lots of $$ to use your brand!

  • Vroo (Bruce Leban)

    Kudos to Bill and GeekWire!

    I hope GeekWire gets a lot of hits from this so people can read the real story, rather than believe that it was just a phone that made him geek of the week.

  • Kevin Lisota

    I just about fell out of my chair when I saw this running during the Seahawks game today. Awesome way to be featured!

  • Hanson Hosein

    That’s awesome exposure for GeekWire, nice!

  • @CascadeRam

    It was a great story and I’m glad the story is getting added coverage now.

  • johnhcook

    It’s really cool for us to be a part of this ad, but not nearly as cool as knowing Bill Sleeper. He’s an amazing and inspiring man! Check out our Geek of the Week profile, and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Jefferson

    Would be interesting to know if the Geekwire site saw increased traffic hits after the ad started showing, especially from out-of-area visitors.

    • Todd Bishop

      That’s a good question. I just looked, and views of the home page yesterday were 40 percent higher than typical for a Sunday, with slightly more people than normal coming in from out of the Seattle region.

      (We actually get a significant national and international audience already, with more than half of our traffic coming from outside WA state, so something like this has less impact on geography than you might expect.)

      One interesting note: Traffic to the overall site yesterday was actually 3X what’s normal for a Sunday, but that was actually not related to the Best Buy ad — it was almost entirely due to a Hacker News link to our “Creepy Cameraman” story.

  • johnstaylor

    Great job, guys! I nearly dropped my popcorn when I heard GeekWire mentioned! I first saw this ad during yesterday’s Redskins game. Come to think of it, this ad was the only thing that went well during those 3 hours.

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