What Next for the Flash Mob?

I sat back in anticipation, but nervous, extremely nervous. It was 8.55pm and I was sure that in 5 minutes time I was going to start viewing the final nail in the coffin for all things Flash Mob. If you didn’t watch Howie Mandell’s new programme Mobbed then I can tell you, it was an extremely large nail. Or so I thought. I searched Twitter frantically to find out the general consensus, was I alone in my displeasure? The show was actually met with a positive response much to my surprise, people loved it. It appeared I was in the minority but not completely alone in my sentiments as one tweet summed up ‘Ok. I tried watching Mobbed. Cool premise but this is NOT a flash-mob. It’s a production’.

Many of you will agree that flash mobs are already a thing of the past, originating in Manhattan in 2003, courtesy of Harpers Magazine. Active guerrilla marketers started re-energizing the concept a few years ago by simply understanding they have to change the term. A flash mob is no longer branded a ‘flash mob’ by creative’s in a pitch; it’s a live installation, a flash song, a smart crowd or my personal favorite a silent disco. The concept was able to continue to evolve, but the name had to strategically evolve with it.

… this is NOT a flash-mob. It’s a production.

When television meets indie, it’s fair to say that indie dies. Although the subject is brought to a wider audience, and may be entertaining, the concept loses its validity with a certain crowd, but perhaps gains a new one. For a guerrilla marketer what does it mean? It means on to the next idea, time to challenge yourself again and get ahead of the game. It’s an opportunity to pitch the next flash mob, the next interesting, quirky, and water cooler talking concept.

Although the flash mob has now officially lost its indie status, it is still relevant as YouTube continues to testify. Alphabet Photography’s December 2010 Christmas Food Court flash mob in Welland, Ontario is evidence of this now at an unbelievable 32 million views. What makes YouTube figures of that stature so important is that it’s not just 32 million impressions, its 32 million people who have actively gone out there to engage with the content. BIG difference. BIG business.

What has changed therefore (approximately 60 seconds after Mobbed aired), is who wants to do a flash mob. Yesterday it was young, energetic and free thinking companies, more than likely with smaller budgets. Established brand leaders whom often have a more conservative approach to advertising were less likely. They viewed it from a ‘more to lose than gain’ perspective, and would happily spend big budgets on more tried and tested traditional methods. Now the concept is reaching the masses with a seal of approval I would suspect many larger companies now view this method as an opportunity to be cool, which they don’t get very often.

I think it’s fair to conclude more productions and less flash mobs coming soon.


Written by Calum McGuigan

Calum McGuigan is the President of Fervent Events.

Fervent Events is a guerrilla marketing company based in Toronto, Ontario. Fervent offers strategically conceived B2C campaigns, for any budget. They explore, develop and implement engaging plans of action, designed to increase immediate brand awareness and leave a memorable impression.

Calum moved to Toronto in 2006 after graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with a BA (Hons) Events Management degree and previously worked as Special Events Officer at Daily Bread Food Bank for 2.5 years. -


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