Netflix stumbles, recovers through honesty

Oh, Netflix….

Netflix Inc. tried to bring a touch of Hollywood to its Canada debut Wednesday only to wind up apologizing for a botched publicity stunt.

Things backfired at a Toronto street celebration after reporters discovered that actors hired by the Netflix had been given written instructions to give media interviews gushing about the video subscription service’s arrival in Canada.

The actors also were urged to fill a variety of stereotypical roles, including “mothers, film buffs, tech geeks, couch potatoes,” according to the one-page handout given to them.

On its surface, this story seems like a cut-and-dry story about a company doing horrendous, non-social marketing. But wait! Take a look at the story that Netflix is pushing as an explanation.

Netflix never intended to mislead reporters, company spokesman Steve Swasey said. He attributed the mix-up to the bureaucratic hoops that Netflix had to jump through to get a permit to close an entire street for Wednesday’s event.

To qualify for the permit, Swasey said Netflix decided to film a fake documentary. That led to the hiring of a handful of actors who were only supposed to help drum up enthusiasm and attract a crowd before CEO Reed Hastings arrived on the scene. Swasey wasn’t sure who decided the actors should give media interviews under false pretenses.

“We are embarrassed,” Swasey said. “We regret that this put on a blemish on what should have been perfect day for Netflix.”

I’m inclined to believe this story, mainly because it’s just too random and detailed to be something you make up as part of PR spin cover. And as such by the time I was done reading this article, I was ready to forgive and forget.

See what happens when you’re honest and own your mistakes?

UPDATE: Carol LeBlanc commented about this post via Facebook. She had a fantastic point:

“because netflix has a history of being honest and customer-focused i found their excuse completely credible”

Exactly.