Netflix pays actors to pretend to be customers and talk to press at Canadian launch

Netflix has had to apologize after it was revealed that the "enthusiastic customers" talking to the press at its Canadian launch were actors hired for the occasion, reciting lines from a prepared script. It's funny how bizarre a corporate culture this move implies, a board-room full of people inhabiting a reality-distortion bubble nodding enthusiastically to one another, saying, "Yeah, sure, sure, no one will ever find out that they're all actors. It'll be great. Really, really great!"
As a news conference was kicking off to announce Netflix's service -- which uses the Internet to stream unlimited access to thousands of movies and TV shows for $7.99 a month -- extras were asked to spill into the street and encouraged to "play types, for example, mothers, film buffs, tech geeks, couch potatoes etc."

"Extras are 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," reads an information sheet handed out to extras.

"Extras are to look really excited, particularly if asked by media to do any interviews about the prospect of Netflix in Canada."

Netflix apologizes for using actors to meet press at Canadian launch (via Engadget)


  1. Marketing types, I would NOT doubt, realize it’s even better PR to have somebody cause a big stink about something. And they’re thanking you, too.

  2. What most likely happened is Netflix asked a PR company to get some customers or potential customers invovled. They then likely ran out of time or probably decided they’d just hire actors and didn’t tell Netflix who didn’t ask.

    Seemingly insidious decisions are often the result of laziness, mis-comunication or simply being rushed. Often all three.


  3. Oh big deal. Im positive companies have marketed schemes way worse than this. its no different than a staged commercial where people pretend to like a cereal or try a new deodorant. and even if those are “real people, not actors” I bet they filmed hundreds of people just to pick two that seem most excited, maybe 98% hated it. haha! and im about to watch some Netflixs as we speak….

    1. I agree that this sort of thing is commonplace, probably more commonplace than we know. But at least when I’m watching an ad I *know* I’m watching an ad, and can keep my defenses up.

      This kind of thing is a mind-f**k on another level though. But of course so is product placement and all those other forms of hidden advertising.

      I guess the lesson to be learned is that we’re all doomed anyway, so why put up a fight.

  4. Unlimited access to thousands of movies and TV shows for only $7.99 a month!? Sign me up! Thanks for the heads up on this great deal, BoingBoing!!

  5. In other news, the folks shilling for Claritin and Viagra in those ubiquitous TV commercials are just actors too.

    Next week: The shocking truth about Santa Claus!

    1. IOW, Netflix is trying to steal a certain segment of the Canadian market: the media consumers who would rather be American.

      I get it. But one of the side-effects of the American media divide is that certain Canadian media resellers jealously guard access to that content.

      It doesn’t matter if most people can’t see it — they have the rights to show it! Even if it is in a dark forest where nobody sees or hears it! Yay?!

      The future of Canadian media lies in production, not distribution of mass-market stuff.

      Read IMDB comment threads: the world loves our stuff. Maybe our lesser content is throwaway (kids’ series, soaps, etc) but our best stuff is well-liked and fairly critiqued. (way too happy or bland, eg)

      Spoiled children always want more, and Canadians often drown in choice. We get lots of international media, we don’t object to subtitles, and we reap benefits cosmopolitan.

      But we neglect ourselves, and that is a tragic shame.

    2. As far as I can tell the lack of selection is to be blamed on the government. Apparently the CRTC has the right to regulate streaming internet video.

  6. Man, Netflix streaming is awesome, why would they even need to hire extras? I’ve pretty much replaced cable with that plus Hulu.

  7. And yet some of the most thought-provoking works I have ever seen on film have come through the aegis of NFB Canada. Strange duality you folks have up there in the Great White North.

    Also, Netflix FTW. I dumped my HBO and hooked my computer up to my TV. There seems to be little point in watching linear television anymore.

  8. I am increasingly under the impression that saying I like anything, in public, without receiving some kind of financial compensation for doing so makes me a sucker.

  9. I haven’t checked out Netflix Canada yet, but I’m a customer. I have no complaints with and would be happy to stay with them, except that they don’t do anything with streaming. They’ve been talking about it for a while, but that’s all. I can’t tell if the problem is in getting the technology rolled out, or in getting the licenses to stream content in Canada. So if Netflix Canada is going to be streaming stuff in Canada, is that because they’re more on the ball with the technology, or because licensing doors are open to them that are closed to

    If the first, well, you snooze you lose, If the second, then that stinks.

  10. They should not have done anything. I happily went got my one month free membership and i love it….sooo many foreign movies to watch. droool just finished watching an italian movie about a gay porn star having a life crisis and such….awesome next up High Art…

  11. Netflix drank all of my beer, seduced my sister, mom and 9th grade brother, outed me to my boss (I work for a Christian publisher), and kicked my dog. Netflix then tried to lay the blame on the mentally-challenged paper-boy.

    However, I am willing to forgive and forget because I love Netflix streaming via the Roku box. Between Hulu streamed from my computer to TV, Netflix & Amazon on Demand from the Roku box, and other online content, I haven’t had cable for quite a while, and actually, when I do watch cable at a hotel or at someone’s house, cable can seem really, really lame.

    If you want good tips on using Netflix, try

    Of course, cable never drank all of my beer or abused my dog or seduced my minor family members, but neither did Hitler, and we all know how bad Hitler is. Right?

  12. That’s pretty underhanded and gross.

    That said, I’m with a number of people who love streaming on Netflix. There was a period where I was having problems with Mac compatibility, but those days are thankfully over.

  13. Has anyone else had this happen:

    A friend gave me a free trial of Netflix. But, to take advantage of this, I had to give them my credit card info. When the free trial was over, I was automatically signed up for the service (I’m guessing somewhere in my trial sign-up there was some hidden clause about this happening). I didn’t complain about this sleezy practice because I actually wanted to keep the service. But, still, bad form.

  14. Until they have xbox support I’m not signing up. C’mon, they’ve got it for the states, why can’t they have it here?

  15. This makes me question the ethics of the acting profession. I’ll have a hard time believing what they’re pretending to do next time around.

  16. Netflix is really rather sleezy with their subscription practices, though I still love the service.

    I usually rather hate having auto-billed monthly type things, and prefer to pay one month at a time- so I can control exactly when the money is being taken out.. I found out the hard way that if you try to pay for a month of Netflix, then cancel the monthly subscription, they will shut you out completely of the account — even though you just paid for a full month.

    This is different from other subscription services, such as Warcraft – I can sign up for the monthly, cancel it immediately, and still get to play for the 1month I paid for.

  17. I am constantly amazed at the durability of the DVD format due to the consistent haze of scratches on discs from Netflix. And I estimate that they don’t carry about 5% of the titles I search for. Netflix is acceptable, not great; if a better service came along I’d switch easy.

  18. This is just the tip of the iceberg of slimy Netflix tactics.

    The one that got me to permanently boycott them was the browser ad that took people to their site when they clicked the close button on the ad.

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