In March 2006, Bill Wasik, inventor of the Flash Mob, wrote a great report on how he created and grew the flashmob phenomenon - Harper's Magazine (March 2006 issue.)

He talks about how events moved from the original email he sent out ('Q: Why would I want to join an inexplicable mob? A: Tons of other people are doing it') through to discussing the MOBs at the New York shoe store, the Grand Hyatt next to Central Station and the dinosaur worshipping in Times Square Toys R Us. Bill discusses how the phenomenon grew and analyses the different stages of awareness, participation and media coverage.

Bill Wasik ran 8 MOBs and reasoned that the Flash mob craze would die out, thinking that 'co-optation of the flash mob by the nation's large conglomerates would, I reasoned, be its final (and fatal) phase.' This moment seemed to have come when in summer 2005 the "Fusion Flash Concerts" were announced, a 'series of flash mobbing events staged by the Ford Motor Company and Sony Pictures Digital to promote the launch of the new Ford Fusion car.'

However, this did not mark the end of flash mob gatherings. If anything 2009 has been the year of the flash mob - albeit slightly removed from the purity of the original mobs. The MOBs of 2009 have tended to be ad funded and corporately organised displays intended to surprise those who were not in the know, rather than random spontaneous assembly for no obvious purpose.

T-mobile were largely responsible for the re-birth of flash mobbing with a TV ad (subsequently uploaded to YouTube) filmed in Liverpool St station in London - now with over 15m YouTube views:


In March a Belgian TV channel then created a mass performance of 'Do-Re-Mi' in the Central Station in Antwerp:


In April Trident Unwrapped used 100 Beyonce lookalikes in Piccadilly Circus London:


Michael Jackson's death sparked global 'flash mob' performances of his dance routines - the highlight (probably) being this performance in Stockholm:


In September 2009, to launch the new Oprah season, Oprah hosted a Black Eyed Peas outdoor concert in Chicago - where to her surprise the crowd turned into a huge flash mob:


In October 2009 HTC ran a flash mob at Raffles Place in Singapore:


In October the Bondi Beach 'Say Cheese' performance became Australia's most significant contribution to the flash mob craze (a stunt to promote Flip):


Earlier this month Elf Yourself ran a flash mob in Union Square in New York to promote the fact that Elf Yourself is back for 2009:


3 days ago Janet Jackson appeared at a Janet Jackson flashmob in Los Angeles (a series of MOBs occurred across LA on the same day to promote her new album):


and Flash mobs are even now happening inside retail stores!

In October TV2 in Sweden ran a MOB in a Swedish IKEA store to promote the new series of 'Skal vi danse' ('Shall We Dance'):


and now we have Microsoft store staff dancing to the Black Eyed Peas too:


So why didn't mobs die when Bill Wasik predicted they would? The above are only a few of the mobs from this year, so why has 2009 seen so many? I think there are two main reasons:

1) Joy. It doesn't matter how many times this is done, being near or part of a flash mob / spontaneous outburst of performance raises a smile. With so many economic issues in the world this year, bringing happiness to people (no matter how tenuous the link) creates a positive feeling - a good context for an advertiser message.

2) Social. A flash mob creates Conversation. Those people who are present tweet about it, update their Facebook, take videos and upload to YouTube. Some of these films (or associated UGC versions) have huge, huge view numbers. Often the most effective way of creating buzz in online communities and social networks is to do something in the real world that then prompts people to share it in their virtual ones. Being part of an event gives participants something to talk about and the act of sharing with friends increases buzz and awareness (invariably it will prompt them to search out the info for themelves.)

Conversation (talking about the event) drives people to The Destination (the relevant video, channel, Facebook page etc). If the content is good, these visitors will then share it with their friends, who then talk about it, prompting even more people to visit the Destination. Thus an event can be far more cost-effective at driving coverage than a traditional campaign. (Not forgetting that it also instills joy and positive feeling into the message too.)

In 2003 Bill Wasik was surprised to see his MOB events featuring on blogs who were syndicating the email instrutions - but he did not object. He 'did not want anyone to learn the mob details without making human contact with another mob member, but blogs are by their nature such intimate endeavours that even the most widely read among them seem to foster a sense of close connectedness among their readers.' 'A mob spread partly by blogs was still, as I had intended, a virtual community made physical.'

MOB founder Bill was forward thinking, but in his mind it was all about email / blogs / WOM etc pushing people to the event. In today's media model it's the other way round. Advertisers are creating events to push UGC coverage, a physical community made virtual . The event drives the Conversation, rather than the other way round as Bill intended.

'Social media' doesn't happen in isolation, Conversation needs to be driven and then end up somewhere - and if the Destination is strong enough it will fuel further Conversation and keep looping and growing.

Nokia Snake in Bogotà

Flashmob action by Coke

Surprise Wedding Reception
we picked a random couple getting married at the City Clerk’s Office in Manhattan and threw them a surprise wedding reception. The couple was treated to dancing, toasts, cake, and gifts, all with complete strangers.

Hammer Pants Dance

Beyonce 100 Single Ladies Flash-Dance

Piccadilly Circus, London for Trident Unwrapped

I Gotta Feeling - Lipdub - One Take Music Video in University Of Quebec

FLASHMOB.CL - Aprendiendo a volar
Agencia El Traductor de Donald Paseo Ahumada Chile

Untitled from ortegaxpriest on Vimeo.

The Condo mob

Greenpeace shock Zurich

Activists from Greenpeace and the alliance "No to nuclear" , as part of a campaign against the use of nuclear energy, produced on May 25 last flash mob who knows some success, especially on the Internet .Flash mob in question uses the lever action shocking, and not surprisingly, the video displays 370,000 views in six days. 

Utah Department of Public Safety| Motorcycle Safety Campaign

Utah Department of Public Safety: Motorcycle Safety Campaign, Bumps
Bikers make lousy speed bumps.
Drive aware.

Utah Department of Public Safety: Motorcycle Safety Campaign, Heads
Headlights can be replaced.
Heads can't.
Ride aware.

Utah Department of Public Safety: Motorcycle Safety Campaign, Bones
Cars have bumpers.
Bikers have bones.
Ride aware.

Utah Department of Public Safety: Motorcycle Safety Campaign, Bug
To cars and trucks you're the bug.
Ride aware.

Utah Department of Public Safety: Motorcycle Safety Campaign, Wind
Wind feels great in your face.
Bumpers, less so.
Ride aware.

Utah Department of Public Safety: Motorcycle Safety Campaign, Not crazy
It's "born to be wild", not crazy.
Ride aware.

Utah Department of Public Safety: Motorcycle Safety Campaign, Road rash
Road rash is a preventable disease.  
Ride aware.

Advertising Agency: Richter7, Salt Lake City, USA
Executive Creative Director: Dave Newbold
Creative Directors: Gary Sume, Ryan Anderson
Art Director: Ryan Anderson
Copywriter: Gary Sume
Published: May 2010

The Philippine Consulate Dubai | Disaster

The Philippine Consulate Dubai | Disaster
Advertising Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Dubai
Executive Creative Director: 
Marc Lineveldt
Neil Harrison
Advertiser's Supervisor: 
Robert Ramos
Account Manager: 
Hema Patel
Account Supervisor: 
Lisa-Marie Anders
Art Director: 
Hussain Moloobhoy
Ziad Oakes, Hussain Moloobhoy

Huggies Jeans Diapers|"Hit the Streets!"

By| JWT New York

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