Crowd Source - Inside the company that provides fake paparazzi, pretend campaign supporters, and counterfeit protesters
The text message says to show up at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel at 11 a.m. on a Monday. But through some combination of traffic and my own chronic lateness, I find myself rushing into the lobby at 12 minutes after, aware that it’s not a good look to be late for work, my first day on a new job.
I’ve been hired by a company called Crowds on Demand. If you need a crowd of people — for nearly any reason — Crowds on Demand can make it happen. Now it has taken me on as one of its crowd members, although the specifics remain a mystery. It’s an odd sensation to be headed into a gig with no idea what task I’m expected to perform. All I know is that I’ll be making 15 bucks an hour.
In the hotel lobby, Adam Swart, the company’s 24-year-old CEO, is greeting a dozen other recruits. Handsome, fit, sporting slacks and a button-down shirt, Adam bears an uncanny resemblance to House Speaker Paul Ryan, though he’s more than 20 years younger. He circles around us with manic energy, as though jacked up on six cups of coffee. While he gently reprimands me for my lateness, I take his tone to mean, You’re off the hook this time, but don’t do it again. He leads us downstairs to a ballroom in the basement and gives us the lowdown.