Paparazzi, protesters, crowds of adoring fans jostling for a glimpse of a celebrity — under typical circumstances, these situations can be an event planner’s worst nightmare. But a new company is offering exactly that for events. Crowds on Demand, a Los Angeles–based strategic publicity firm, specializes in drumming up all kinds of fake crowds as publicity stunts — whether it’s a group of protesters to draw attention to a charity’s cause or a flash mob to create buzz around a product launch.
“It’s a unique way to make events go beyond what people expect,” said Adam Swart, Crowds on Demand’s founder and CEO, “and get a lot of attention in the right place and from the right people.”
The idea for the service came to Swart when he saw a man he didn’t recognize at an airport creating a stir. It got him thinking that, with the right tools and in the right setting, almost anyone can seem famous. “He was getting whisked off in an SUV, people were talking pictures of him, and everyone seemed to know who he was,” Swart said. “I had no idea who he was, but I just assumed he was someone famous.”
That who-was-that buzz factor is the foundation of Crowds on Demand, the bulk of whose business currently is from corporate events booking crowds of paparazzi. Actual professional photographers, the paparazzi will line up along a red carpet yelling out the names of guests and clamoring for a shot. They’ll also take professional-quality photos that can later be sent to guests as souvenirs or to media outlets for publicity.
Crowds on Demand has also become popular with startup companies trying to stand out in a crowded marketplace. For example, some have hired the service to create flash mobs or rallies at trade shows. The crowds are always made up of trained actors, so clients can trust they will deliver the desired message. “It’s hard not to pay attention when there’s a flash mob outside,” Swart said. “It changes the whole context. Instead of being the small startup, you’re the guy who just stole the show.”
According to Swart, Crowds on Demand will coordinate everything from “three people to laugh at a CEO’s speech” to a staged protest of hundreds. Cost varies depending on the situation, but starts at just under $1,000 for a few paparazzi photographers or a dozen fans. “We’ve had clients that have used us up to eight times now,” Swart said. “To me, that speaks volumes to the effectiveness of our product. We really are able to captivate people.”
Celebrity for a Day
Renata A. Pasko, owner of New York City–based Renata Pasko Events, wanted an entrance with impact for an 80-person private function held earlier this year at The St. Regis Bal Harbor Resort in Miami Beach. After researching and finding Crowds on Demand, Pasko worked with Adam Swart to craft a paparazzi-lined red carpet that left guests feeling like VIPs. “It really was a crowd pleaser,” Pasko said.Crowds on Demand also offers other bespoke experiences that transform a normal person into a celebrity for a day. For example, the “A-Lister Experience” can turn a CEO’s average day out into a day in the life of Angelina Jolie, complete with security detail, a personal assistant, and a crowd of paparazzi and adoring fans.