In America, we call people who are paid to talk up a product "street teams" and marketers avidly pursue "trendsetters" to tout their products. Movie studios regularly offer free screenings to housewives and hairdressers, other companies give out hundreds of free t-shirts and ball caps, or offer free samples. It's just part of our regular commerce.
But in Japan, apparently, this practice is not so transparent, and McDonald's has found itself caught in a public relations pickle, with some special sauce.
Trying to drive up hype for the debut of a new Double Quarter Pounder with cheese at a branch devoted just to the Quarter Pounder in Midosuji-Suomachi in Osaka, the PR company in charge of the event is charged with paying 1,000 people an hourly wage of 1000 yen to stand in line, and also paid for their purchases. About 15,000 people visited the store on that day, but only about 2,000 people are reported to have stood in line for any length of time, so roughly half of the hype was bought. One blog says that the key trendsetters -- the ones who camped over night, trying to drive up interest -- were actually on the payroll.