So I saw this AT&T spot the other day and it made me mad, but not because it was a bad ad (it’s fine).
Then I though about it for three seconds and figured out what raised my ire: IT WAS THE FLASH MOB THEME.
As much fun as writing your traditional television and radio spots can be, sometimes (well, many times), a well-rounded advertising campaign requires (or, at the very least, would certainly benefit from) something that goes beyond traditional media. You know, experiential/interactive stuff like Burger King’s old (but fun) Subservient Chicken. Look, I realize I don’t need to explain this stuff to you, since you most likely work in advertising and all, but I couldn’t really think of another way to introduce the topic for today’s little rant without getting censured for using foul language: the irritating-beyond-comprehension non-traditional (thank goodness) advertising medium called the flash mob.
So for those of you who have fortunately been able to wipe all prior flash mob exposure from your brains, here’s a brief description: a flash mob is “a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment and/or satire.” For some reason, Wikipedia goes on to say that “[t]he term, coined in 2003, is generally not applied to events and performances organized for the purposes of…commercial advertisement,” among other things, but, through experience, I don’t believe that to be the case (you will, however, come across Flash Mob Purists who believe it totally isn’t a flash mob if it’s convened for advertising purposes, etcetera, and to them I say whatevs). I’ve unfortunately seen plenty of them (like this one that recently took place in Los Angeles’ The Grove for Newport Beach, California-based clothier/shopping mall stalwart PacSun) created solely for advertising purposes (what other purpose would there be? Fun??), and have been a part, albeit a silent and/or dissenting part, of more concepting sessions that included ideas for flash mobs than I’d like to admit.
So why such animosity over something that so seemingly innocuous? “Like, who cares…it’s three-plus minutes of people doing some branded dancing or something.” One: the people performing in them seem so super happy to be there, telling me I probably wouldn’t like them; two: their mere existence impedes my Coffee Bean-to-Apple Store progress; and, most importantly, three: I can’t imagine such an insipid display would actually affect any sane person’s purchase decision, as in “I was totally going to buy shorts at the Hot Topic but, after seeing those folks seemingly spontaneously, but in a lame choreographed manner making me question said spontaneity, dance, and have that choreographed dance sponsored by PacSun, I’m going to abandon my plan to buy shorts at the Hot Topic and buy them at PacSun instead.”
Look, if it comes down to either spending your client’s money on a flash mob or a local newspaper print ad, go for the print ad. At least they’re proven to be (moderately) effective. I mean, the next time I meet someone who tells me that a branded flash mob consciously affected his/her purchase decision, it’ll be the first (and yeah, I know your subconscious and unconscious hate flash mobs, too).
Please keep in mind that, instead of writing five hundred fifty-five words on why I hate flash mobs, I could have written the word ‘lame’ five hundred fifty-five times.
In any event, I’d like to take this opportunity to say that the views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of anyone who has, currently does, or will at some point in the future cut me a check. Some people somewhere must like participating / watching flash mobs, because they exist. In fact, for those Flash Mob Enthusiasts I may have offended, I have done some handy dandy, time-saving Internet research to help you to find a super fun flash mob event occurring near you!