Studio staff 'posed as fans for film adverts'

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The Independent Culture

A week after Columbia Pictures disciplined ad executives for inventing a friendly film critic, the studio has admitted that its workers posed as fans for commercials.

In nationally televised ads for last summer's Columbia filmThe Patriot, two employees of the studio's parent company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, were passed off as ordinary cinema-goers in fake interviews with people who said they enjoyed the film, Variety magazine reported yesterday.

Variety identified the two employees as Tamaya Petteway and Anthony Jefferson. Ms Petteway is the executive assistant to Columbia's executive vice- president of creative advertising, Dana Precious, who was in charge of marketing the film. Mr Jefferson works on the finance side, Variety said.

In commercials that aired on NBC and CBS, Ms Petteway looks into the camera and assures viewers that the movie is a "perfect date movie!" as her ostensible date, Mr Jefferson, looks on with a faint smile.

These type of adverts, known as "reaction spots", are fairly common in Hollywood. Typically, audience members from a friendly demographic group are lined up for question-and-answer sessions. Actors are sometimes given lines to read and are paid, Variety said. However, movie insiders said that it is highly unusual for a distributor to use its own employees for these spots.

But Ms Precious said: "Using actors, real people or employees as spokespeople is not unique to the entertainment business, and is not something that is practiced only by me."