is Experience Crowdcasting

How events will be impacted by the “crowd for hire” trend.

Event marketers have used a variety of “people” based strategies to get their messages across for years, from flash mobs that turn heads to street teams delivering guerrilla-style surprise-and-delight experiences to influencers hired specifically to promote a brand or product with their large following. But a new people-based strategy has emerged in crowdcasting, an industry of just that—casting people to form lines and attend events to simulate word-of-mouth buzz.

Crowdcasting app Surkus was featured in The Washington Post, a service that allows a restaurant to “quickly manufacture its ideal crowd and pay people to stand in place like extras on a movie set.” Surkus is designed to connect brands and businesses with the “ideal crowd” that’s ready to engage, hand-picked based on an algorithm that takes into account a person’s age, location, style and even, their Likes on Facebook. They’re scored based on performance. And, get this—they’re tracked via geolocation so clients know they’ve actually stood their time in line.

It’s a business not so new in other spaces and industries, like politics. On campaign trails, crowds are hired to “fake enthusiasm” and reportedly were used in campaign rallies during the 2016 elections. Protests are often stocked with hired participants as are picket lines, according to an inside look from The Atlantic.

In events, a number of services have been available for a few years, including Crowds on Demand, which provides clients with protests, rallies, flash-mobs, paparazzi events and other “inventive p.r. stunts.” The service may be used to treat unsuspecting honorees with flash bulbs and “adoring fans” or by a fashion brand, for example, looking to “enhance the celebrity stature” of its products.

Surkus, however, puts an on-demand, digital spin on the trend, allowing brands (or clients in general) to join and tap into a network of crowd members right from a device or machine. For marketers looking to tap into the hired word-of-mouth trend, the challenge surrounds authenticity and whether the crowds can represent the energy of a true fan base.

Time will tell.

By Brent Turner and Rachel Kirkpatrick Boucher

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Brent is a member of the executive team for Opus Agency, an experience agency that delivers flagship programs for 13 of the top 20 global brands.

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