Crowds on Demand
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|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Los Angeles; San Francisco; Las Vegas; New York City; Washington, D.C.; Iowa; New Hampshire|
|Services||publicity, public relations|
Crowds on Demand is an American publicity firm that provides clients with hired actors to pose as fans, paparazzi, security guards, unpaid protesters and professional paid protesters. The company operates in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York City, Washington, D.C., Iowa, and New Hampshire. The firm was founded in October 2012 by Adam Swart.
As I walked down the stairs from the airplane in Estonia, I thought "Wouldn't it be great to be waving to a cheering crowd right about now?" I had the same thought as I returned home to the [United] States. Life can be very cold at times, and nothing makes people happier than having people cheer for them.— Adam Swart, founder and CEO of Crowds on Demand, 2013 interview with LAist
The firm sells services that allow clients to simulate a celebrity lifestyle. Its “Celebrity Shopping Experience” is a trip through town in a luxury car, with cheering fans and paparazzi at every stop. The service was the subject of a “Good Morning America” piece in which a correspondent pretended to be the King of Liechtenstein while he went through a shopping mall with a paid entourage.
Swart claims that he has the most “crowd actors” in cities where real actors tend to try to make it—New York and L.A.—but has actors available in political hotspots such as Iowa and New Hampshire as well.
Just before the November 2012 election, company founder Swart said that the company was considering a request by a candidate for a staged political protest. According to an article in the New York Post, Anthony Weiner paid Crowds on Demand actors to attend campaign rallies during his 2013 campaign for mayor of New York City.
Crowds on Demand has come under criticism for selling the pretense of fame and popularity. Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, an associate professor at the University of Southern California Sol Price School of Public Policy, criticized the company for deceiving the public.
I received an e-mail the other day from Crowds on Demand, an L.A.-based company that, for a fee, will send a bunch of “team members” to your event, stuffing the crowd with confederates to make you look important.
The service has been characterized as astroturfing. Dan Schneider, writing for The Atlantic, said "There might be some gray area between offering a small token of appreciation to otherwise voluntary supporters and full-blown astroturfing, but spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars to prop up a struggling cause seems to fit more squarely in the latter category." Schneider also noted that Swart admitted "a revelation that a campaign is paying for supporters is deeply embarrassing, and he takes great pains to keep his clients’ identities a secret."
According to a February 2016 report for NBC Los Angeles, a paid protester claimed to be "a concerned citizen" when speaking out against a planned development in a city council meeting for Camarillo, California in 2015. He later stated to reporters that his role "was scripted, they told me what to say." Swart claimed the company has "worked with dozens of campaigns for state officials, and 2016 presidential candidates" but declined to identify his clients for fear of losing future business. Public records identified only one campaign, for the Six Californias, had paid Crowds on Demand.
In May 2018, the outfit made New Orleans news as word got out that energy firm Entergy had used "astroturfing" tactics - paid actors - to speak at a March city council hearing in support of a proposed controversial natural gas power plant, and in opposition to solar and wind power.
- Rental family, a service to provide actors to play family, friends, and/or coworkers, primarily in Japan
- "¿Quieres fans? ¡Alquílalas!". noticias.univision.com. Univision Noticias. AFP. 2013-02-14. Archived from the original on 26 May 2013. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
Adam Swart (2012-11-01). "Feeling Unloved? Now You Can Rent a Crowd to Follow You Around" (Interview). Interviewed by Jessica P. Ogilvie. LAist. Archived from the original on 2013-02-24. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
[...] the most interesting 'request' was for a political protest against a candidate's opponent...we're working to make sure that the protest is appropriate as we are an honorable business and would never want to spread anything that is false about anyone!
- Kelly, John (2012-10-01). "From D.C. to Berlin and back again". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
- Schneider, Dan (22 July 2015). "1-800-HIRE-A-CROWD". The Atlantic. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
- Watt, Nick (2012-12-31). "New Year's Eve 2012-2013: Rent an Entourage, Paparazzi for New Year's Eve". ABC News. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
- Lee, Wendy (2013-01-07). "Los Angeles company provides fake paparazzi and crowds for celebrity wannabes". Scpr.org. Southern California Public Radio. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
- DeFalco, Beth (28 August 2013). "Weiner paid for phony supporters at campaign events, source says". New York Post. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
- Austin, Marin (17 February 2016). "Concerned Citizens Turn Out to Be Political Theater". NBC4 Los Angeles. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
- Monteverde, Danny. "'Everything's in question' after Entergy admits fake actors used to support new plant". WWL. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
- "City Council approves construction of controversial Entergy plant in New Orleans East". WGNO. 8 March 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
- "John Oliver Tackles Astroturfing, or the Real Paid Protesters, on Last Week Tonight". www.themarysue.com. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
- Polatoglu, Serli (2 May 2011). "Presidential candidates rally votes – Adam Swart". Daily Bruin. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
- Taete, Jamie Lee Crutis (6 August 2013). "It's Now Possible to Hire Fake Protesters". Vice. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
- Morley, Nicole (2 July 2015). "Politicians are hiring crowds of actors to pose as supporters". Metro. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
- "Company with crowds for hire sees opportunity in politics". CBS News. 1 August 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
- Monks, Kieron (20 October 2015). "The lucrative business of crowds for hire". CNN. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
- Rothbart, Davy (31 March 2016). "Crowd Source: Inside the company that provides fake paparazzi, pretend campaign supporters, and counterfeit protesters". The California Sunday Magazine. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
- MacGuill, Dan (15 August 2017). "Was a Crowd Hire Company Involved in Protests Against a White Supremacist Rally?". Snopes. Retrieved 17 November 2017.