roach bait
n. A marketing message delivered by an actor posing as a regular person with the intention of having that message passed along to many other people.

Example Citation:
"I'll tell you about a process we use, which is called 'roach bait,' " he says. In this scenario, Big Fat plants a group of people in a bar or other setting, and instructs them to use a brand, perform a ritual or repeat a sound bite. They are told to involve others in the activity.

"Before the night is over you see that thing, that ritual, that sound bite or that product, being used throughout the bar," he says. "It's kind of like a roach motel. The roaches come in, they take the bait and then they spread it."
—John Heinzl, "Advertising slinks undercover," The Globe and Mail, July 20, 2001

Earliest Citation:
Then, there's the 'roach bait' technique. Under this scenario, the paid huckster doesn't necessarily buy a drink for others. He's often found sitting in a prime spot at a bar or club, very visibly drinking Brand X. He talks up the brand big-time in the hope the good word will spread.
—Theresa Howard, "Freebies take on brash new form," USA Today, May 15, 2001

Notes:
Today's creepy word gives you a pretty good indication of what marketers think of the average consumer. The term comes from roach bait, a poison that's sprayed in cockroach-infested areas. A cockroach eats the bait, returns to its nest, and excretes feces that are contaminated with the poison. The original roach dies, but other roaches eat the contaminated feces and the killing cycle continues.

Happily, some marketers are pushing a slightly nicer variation on this theme — brand bait:

'Maybe only 15 kids are hit [by the Nintendo squad] at a birthday party but kids talk, a lot — at school, with SMS, by phone,' Ressler says. 'We know 15 kids can impact [on] 15,000 kids or 150,000 kids [through word of mouth]. You've heard of roach bait? Well, we call this brand bait. People have something to go back and talk to their friends about.'
—Natasha Bita, "Undercover agencies," The Australian, September 27, 2001

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