To promote the launch of Netflix’s brand-new Canadian branch, the company staged a large media event in Toronto today—one that attracted scores of people from everyday walks of life, many of whom happily gave interviews to local journalists about their genuine excitement, as a regular ol’ everyday person, over the benefits of the Netflix service. Unfortunately those everyday people turned out to be hired actors, paid by Netflix to fill the streets and offer their giddy, unusually specific opinions about the company. According to an information sheet handed out to the extras, they were asked to play “types, for example, mothers, film buffs, tech geeks, couch potatoes etc.,” all of whom were supposed to “behave as members of the public, out and about enjoying their day-to-day life, who happen upon a street event for Netflix and stop by to check it out.” Because why even run the risk of failing to attract interest in your publicity stunt when you can just pay people to show up and fake it?
Many of those actors, as you would expect, did give interviews to the reporters on the scene—which, again, is something they were expressly asked to do: “Extras are to look really excited, particularly if asked by media to do any interviews about the prospect of Netflix in Canada,” the sheet said. But once the company’s PR fakery was exposed on Twitter, it rushed to apologize, saying that, actually, the extras should not have been talking to journalists—and in fact, the script they received “was not supposed to happen.” Rather, the whole thing was merely being staged as “a corporate documentary,” but unfortunately for Netflix, “Some people got carried away and it's embarrassing to Netflix.” Aww, don’t feel bad, Netflix. It’s not like paying people to give false testimonials about your company to the press, then having the press dutifully report those testimonials reflects poorly on you. This is clearly the media’s fault for interviewing anyone who would attend a Netflix publicity event in the first place. (By way of consolation, here’s yet another story about it.)