Fox Owns Up to Using Employees for Ads

ByABC News
June 20, 2001, 6:30 PM

June 20 -- HOLLYWOOD (Variety) Days after Columbia Pictures copped to depicting company employees as "fans" offering rave reviews for TV ads, another studio has joined the hall of shame.

Fox Searchlight's 1998 release Waking Ned Devine concerns an entire town working together to fool the authorities.

Now it turns out the studio was working to fool moviegoers, attempting to pass off one of its advertising staffers as a "man on the street" moviegoer in TV ads for the picture.

In a national TV spot, Caren Lipson who was then executive assistant to Fox Searchlight Vice President of Creative Advertising Samantha Hart jubilantly proclaimed the film "hysterical!" Lipson, cheerfully posing with her "date," appeared in a montage of interviews cross-cut against scenes from the film.

The revelation comes only days after Fox Searchlight bragged about its marketing credibility in newspaper ads for current release Sexy Beast. The ads exhorted moviegoers to "read honest-to-God rave reviews at"

All this is a reference to Columbia's recent marketing transgressions: fabricating a phony critic, and using "fans" who were actually Columbia marketing employees in a nationally televised spot for last year's Mel Gibson movie The Patriot.

Lipson now is employed at Universal Pictures' theatrical marketing division, where she is understood to administer movie Web sites that promote Universal's films.

Reached by telephone at her office, Lipson said, "I absolutely refuse to talk about this" and then hung up.

"Waking Ned Devine was released under a completely different Searchlight regime, and the people responsible for its marketing are no longer here," said Nancy Utley, president of marketing for Fox Searchlight, in a prepared statement.

Utley added, "We are disheartened that deceptive advertising practices eroded the public trust to an all-time low, forcing us to use full, unedited reviews to showcase the critical acclaim of a film like [new release] Sexy Beast." She declined to elaborate on the statement.