Australia’s ten shittest branded flash mobs

There’s now little in marketing less inspired than a dance flash mob. Be it in Rundle Mall, Adelaide, Federation Square in Melbourne, Queen Street Mall in Brisbane, Sydney’s Martin Place or a grim suburban strip mall, marketing companies are rinsing gullible clients for dollars on the promise the video will go viral.

And some big names – the likes of BMW, Dell, Qantas, Milo, Domino’s and Wii – are among those turning brand gold to shit.

One look at the grim faces of those who happened to be nearby when the experiential marketing project broke out is all that is needed to understand why this is a marketing trend that is D.E.A.D.

I humbly offer you my top ten shittest Australian branded flash mobs of all time:


The customers couldn't make it

Brand: Game/ Wii

Where: Paramatta Game Store

When: December 2009

The lowdown: The YouTube upload description offers an insight into how they wished it had turned out: “Check out this flashmob… It was insane! The whole store just broke into dance… playing the Wii video game Just Dance.” Yeah, right.

Views: 45,552


Just the reaction they hoped for

Brand/ cause: Qantas new route

Where: Sydney Airport

When: June, 2011

The lowdown: Fair to say that the stunt to publicise the Sydney to Perth route didn’t captivate the crowd, even if the cupcakes that followed did.

Views: 4,847



Unbridled enthusiasm

Brand/ cause: Bondi Pizza opening

Where: Bondi Pizza

When: August, 2011

The lowdown: A roomful of people calculating how long before they can go back to their drinks

Views: 62


The crowd goes wild

Brand/ cause: Climate change awareness

Where: Sydney Opera House

When: July 2009

The lowdown: And who exactly were they making aware of climate change?

Views: 123,407



The audience couldn't make it

Brand/ cause: Australian Services Union/ Fair Pay

Where: Victorian State Parliament

When: May 2011

The lowdown: An excellent example of guerrilla marketing in a vacuum

Views: 1879



Inexplicably, it didn't go viral

Brand/ cause: Dell Streak mobile phone

Where: Circular Quay, Sydney

When: September 2010

The lowdown: If the brand values encapsulate low interest and low production values then this certainly did the job

Views: 792



Pulling a crowd

Brand/ cause: Power Bar

Where: Martin Place, Sydney

When: July 2010

The lowdown: Don’t pick a rainy day to do a flashmob. Otherwise the dancers will outnumber the audience

Views: 1.231



At least she enjoyed it (every time)

Brand/ cause: BMW X3

Where: Sylvania BMW

When: March 2011

The lowdown: Another over-excited YouTube description: “VIP guests at Sylvania BMW’s X3 Launch were taken by surprise when a team of dancers burst into their cocktail party with a rendition from “Grease!” Anyone else suspicious that the video editor has had to replay footage of the same blonde woman laughing uproariously in four different places?

Views: 12.932



Lucikly, a TV camera was on hand

Brand/ cause: Milo

Where: The Gabba, Brisbane

When: November 2010

The lowdown: Choreographed Ashes flash mobs at their least spontaneous

Views: 19,152



The joy of spontaneity

Brand/ cause: Domino’s Pizza

Where: Westfield shopping centre, Brisbane

When: July 2011

The lowdown: In an unfortunate mix up with the word “unoriginal”, in the press release to announce the marketing stunt, Domino’s described it as “unique”.

Views: 5,780


Tim Burrowes


  1. observer
    27 Aug 11
    1:50 am

  2. Cf.

    #17 – Top Favorited (All Time) – Nonprofits & Activism – Canada
    #12 – Top Rated (All Time) – Nonprofits & Activism – Canada

  3. Jon
    27 Aug 11
    8:12 am

  4. Tim

    Love it, couldn’t agree more.

  5. Hank
    27 Aug 11
    10:26 am

  6. The temptation to set up a flash mob at next years Mumbrella360 is overwhelming.

  7. Patrick
    27 Aug 11
    11:52 am

  8. You know you’ve wasted your money when there are more flash mobbers than there are views.

  9. Andrew
    27 Aug 11
    12:42 pm

  10. The BMW one actually made me feel ill it was so bad.

  11. Mike
    27 Aug 11
    5:36 pm

  12. Agreed! They are lame, and shame on the agencies and “creatives” who were even more lame to suggest them.
    But one important point to make here Tim: this is NOT experiential marketing.
    Experiential marketing is at its core, a one to one engagement where the target opts-in to the engagement.

    It’s not a show you put on hoping someone will watch. It’s not anything that happens online (the online world is the diametric opposite of experiential marketing). It’s not PR stunts.
    “Experiential” gets thrown around a lot these days, and only a very few know how it’s done, and even fewer how to do it well. And an experiential marketer would NEVER recommend a flash mob.

  13. Craig
    27 Aug 11
    9:27 pm

  14. If it wasn’t for flash mobs there’d be a lot of semi-professional dancers forced to work in the mines for four times as much money.

  15. johnny
    27 Aug 11
    10:45 pm

  16. These ads are six years too late.

  17. Adam Paull
    28 Aug 11
    12:35 am

  18. Not only are they lame, but the really interesting thing here is that they open their clients up to the risk of a hefty legal settlement due to copyright infringements. I’m sure these would be considered an advertisement in a court of law, and I’d doubt very much the production budget extended to paying the tens of thousands of dollars for the music rights.

    Thankfully the music industry isn’t very litigious so I think they’ll be alright…

  19. NJ
    28 Aug 11
    7:21 am

  20. Sickening awful. Especially that union one where they had to sing the song themselves. Great list though!

  21. DeanM
    28 Aug 11
    9:27 pm

  22. I am unsure if anyone who has commented on any of the above actually attended any of these events or experienced any of these flash mobs? I attended the Bondi Pizza and BMW events and I have to say that the energy at both was brilliant, and the talkability post both events seem to work I thought. 45,000 views for a flash mob of dancers who I hear all voulenteer for the love of dance to me seems like a smart investment for a brand. Ohhh and if any of the above didnt have a flash mob would we not be discussing these brands now???

  23. Michael Wyres
    29 Aug 11
    8:37 am

  24. Notice *most* of these are in Sydney? That’s gotta mean something… 😉

  25. Nat Bradford
    29 Aug 11
    9:20 am

  26. @DeanM – there’s a difference between “laughing with” and “laughing at”… but I’m guessing your use of the highly credible measurement term “talkability” means the difference may have been lost on you.

  27. Pierre
    29 Aug 11
    10:02 am

  28. Thanks, a good list. Some of these agencies/companies seem to have mistaken the flash mob concept for the much older ideas of ‘lame street theatre’ and ‘choreographed performance at corporate event’. The Opera House forecourt is a stock standard performance venue, so you’d hardly be taken aback to find people dancing there in a group. And when you hold the event you’re hardly delighting a group of strangers with a totally left field surprise.

  29. Debbie Downer
    29 Aug 11
    10:19 am

  30. I love the descriptions on the uploads the best. “Like, OMG everyone just started joining in! Lucky I caught it all on my iPhone…starting from a few minutes before it began…from multiple angles…including security footage…”

    I don’t think the medium is dead though. Just that “big group of people suddenly dancing in a public place” flash mob might have been done to death now. You could be a little more creative with it – have a look at what Improv Everywhere do with theirs. Essentially all they are doing is flash mobs, just organised a lot better and do different things besides choreographed dances (which they do as well to be fair).

  31. Slice And Dice
    29 Aug 11
    10:20 am

  32. I was at The Gabba in Brisbane on the day of the “Flash Mob”…truly woeful. Good post, Tim.

    p.s. Love Hank’s post……do it, Hank!

  33. Christina Koullas
    29 Aug 11
    11:44 am

  34. Nice one! I’ve seen flash mob routines where the audience was already lined up before the choreography began… sort of defeats the purpose.

  35. darren
    29 Aug 11
    11:47 am

  36. Not to mention the public liability issues should one of these “dancers” break something slipping on a disgarded Cheeseburger

  37. Alison_F
    29 Aug 11
    12:14 pm

  38. Hilarious! Really brightened my day, haha!
    I think Australian audiences are easily embarrassed for others and this may have a lot to do with Flash Mobs not taking off here quite like they have overseas…

  39. AdGrunt
    29 Aug 11
    1:27 pm

  40. Has there ever been a good branded flashmob?

    By good, I mean a flashmob which has had some meaningul positive impact on customers and their perceptions; which hasn’t been a scam and relied on busloads of “extras” parked in adjoining streets for when it starts to go lumpy; which has truly used social media to draw spontaneous action and a brand together.


  41. AC
    29 Aug 11
    1:53 pm

  42. What’s with the swear words, is it really necessary? I mean you talk about ruining a brand, have you thought about Mumbrella’s name and what you’re making it look like with your potty words?

  43. Jasmine
    29 Aug 11
    1:55 pm

  44. I happen to be in that “Shit” first flashmob at GAME and it was one of the most fun moments I have ever had, and YES I do have a life. The ratio of spontaneous dancers to organised dancers were outnumbered. And hey, the video got 45,552 views. Ain’t too bad i’ll say. Sales went through the roof of Just Dance that afternoon.

    Whatever, let’s get on with it… I bet the person that wrote this is one of those people that stands in a corner at a party while everyone else is having fun dancing!

  45. mumbrella
    29 Aug 11
    2:04 pm

  46. Hi Jasmine,

    I’m a little curious how you know what the sales were if you just happened to be in the store at the time?

    But in the meantime, congratulations on following brand style and referring to the store as GAME rather than Game. Not many unaffiliated consumers would know to do that. You must be a very committed customer indeed.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  47. Alison_F
    29 Aug 11
    2:12 pm

  48. @AC…. really?? I think I’d prefer to read Tim’s swear words than ‘potty anything’!

  49. Dave
    29 Aug 11
    2:23 pm

  50. just let me put it out there.

    There is never any excuse for fat people dancing.



  51. Elwood
    29 Aug 11
    2:26 pm

  52. Bondi Pizza at 1 minute and 1 second. A spitting image of Michael from Masterchef busted checking out some girl – mind you I would have been averting my eyes from the cringe worthy “flash mob”. Amazing.
    These are a brilliant list and I’ve been squirming at my desk trying to watch them… thanks Tim. Last weekend I saw on my facebook news feed an ex-colleague posted “holy cr4p – we just did the craziest flash mob. so much fun. thanks girls for the help, you looked amazing. omg. lol etc…’. Two comments up I saw another post from someone else saying ‘just saw the lamest flash mob, I must have been asleep 20 years and now they’re making an ironic comeback’.

  53. Em
    29 Aug 11
    2:26 pm

  54. Ugh – cannot believe people still do this tripe.

  55. Jasmine
    29 Aug 11
    2:35 pm

  56. Hi Tim,

    Maybe you misunderstood what I wrote. I actually worked for GAME and I was there as part of the official flash mob. And a little defensive I will be. I understand I wrote that in the wrong context, however, I was a dedicated employer and we all had fun at the end of the day. It actually turned out to be a successful campaign for us! But I am not speaking for all flashmob’s. I guess I just like to dance.

  57. Susie
    29 Aug 11
    2:38 pm

  58. Dave – couldn’t agree more… so so wrong

  59. Kylie Green
    29 Aug 11
    2:46 pm

  60. There’s even a TV show in the US called ‘Mobbed” that promotes flash mobbing for events such as marriage proposals. I couldn’t think of anything worse.

    Have a look at this link and cringe!

    I had to turn it off after about 2 mins – prepare for much worse than Tim’s Top 10 from Australia!

  61. Steve
    29 Aug 11
    2:57 pm

  62. Flash mobs are awesome, what’s everyone talking about?

  63. Steve Fontanot
    29 Aug 11
    3:01 pm

  64. Could not agree more mate. No one in their right mind can honestly sit there and advocate these ‘activities’ as a positive brand engagement, and not be:

    a) lying; or
    b) truly bad at understanding experiential marketing.

    Can we all agree to have them abolished?

  65. Bucks
    29 Aug 11
    3:17 pm

  66. I hearby volunteer my really, REALLY bad dancing skills to Hank’s proposed Flash mob at the next Mumbrella 360.

    Aside from that, whilst I do agree these are UBER lame, the best of a bad lot would be the ‘Just Dance’ game, at least it’s in context of the product.

    The worst without a doubt is the BMW one. Such a high profile brand smashed with tackiness. Are you sure that this wasn’t organised by Mercedes Benz and sent to the BMW showroom as a guerilla attack?

  67. Rachael Amesbury
    29 Aug 11
    3:30 pm

  68. WOW – I am never recommending flash mobs to my clients. Period. Hideous mash-ups of school grade productions and terrible brand messaging. EPIC FAIL. Where is keyboard cat to play them off?

  69. AC
    29 Aug 11
    3:32 pm

  70. Ok so let’s drop both “S%#T” and “POTTY” and go with “WORST branded flashmobs”. Anything but swear words when creating blogs please. … particularly those in which you hold the responsibility of mentioning multi-billion dollar corporations’ brand names, all of which I’m sure wouldn’t appreciate their name being next to gutter terminology. Lift it up a little and a great blogger ye shall be! :)

  71. A
    29 Aug 11
    3:38 pm

  72. Flash mobs just suck.

  73. Tammy
    29 Aug 11
    3:39 pm

  74. Bravo Tim.

    My highlights?

    ‘Unbridled enthusiasm’ in Bondi Pizza vid – (1:01secs)
    The very inconspicuous entry of two new dancers in ‘Power Shift Sydney” (1:27sec)
    Watching to-be flash mobbers almost bursting with excitement in ASU flash mob (34sec)
    And ‘What The F%^&? is going on here?’ nose rub in Dominos vid – (1:47)


  75. christopher copywriter
    29 Aug 11
    3:51 pm

  76. LMAO..

    The only problem is, is that the uninitiated really enjoy shite flashmobs..


  77. Chris Seymour
    29 Aug 11
    3:55 pm

  78. If you have to rely on a video going viral to get ROI – and you think an unimaginative concept is the best way to execute this, you’re on pretty shaky ground.

  79. Trevor Trevorsen
    29 Aug 11
    4:12 pm

  80. The guy in the BMW video wiping something from his mouth at 1.22 says it all.

  81. Chris
    29 Aug 11
    4:59 pm

  82. I thought they were all pretty good fun.
    One I liked which was done in Perth is –

  83. Devil's advocaat
    29 Aug 11
    5:01 pm

  84. I really prefer the recent UK flash mobs to these ones.

    More sincere and less inane grinning.

  85. Anonymous Sam
    29 Aug 11
    5:17 pm

  86. They have one of these every two minutes in London and the saddest thing is, I think the ‘audiences’ are hired as well. Lets just say they seem to appreciate them very ‘enthusiastically’.

    I liken it to a form of marketing rape. You’re not expecting it. There’s no reason for it except to get your attention. It doesn’t deliver a message. And it leaves unsuspecting victims scarred for life. I’m scared to walk anywhere near Covent Garden again.

    T-Mobile’s “life’s for sharing” should have been the end of it.

  87. John Grono
    29 Aug 11
    5:41 pm

  88. Dave (2:23pm). Well there goes my next career move.

  89. utter shite
    29 Aug 11
    5:56 pm

  90. the sad thing is that in parallel with the advent of “free” media channels such as youtube, facebook, twitter etc there has been an increase in the view of clients that people give a crap about their brands and that they will go out of their way in their busy lives to watch clients effectively masturbate in front of them. unfortunately with no-one watching this stuff they’d have been better spending the money in media actually promoting their brands/products.

  91. PerthWriter
    29 Aug 11
    5:56 pm

  92. I love this Tim.

    Is it even just the slightest bit ironic that this article has increased all their video views?

  93. rob
    29 Aug 11
    6:01 pm

  94. @ Devil’s advocaat maybe they can call that new style of flash mob a “trash mob” and you just pick a random brand’s store and run in and take stuff and trash the place, then the brand gets promoted all over the media in the news bulletins, which makes it worth their while – that’s real guerilla marketing

  95. steven
    29 Aug 11
    8:10 pm

  96. Tim can we please out the agencies who created these monstrosities?

  97. CAP
    29 Aug 11
    10:10 pm

  98. Personally I could not watch these videos and have not. I still found the article interesting and the comments enlightening though. Firstly this is Australia and we like to swear. If you don’t like it AC then fuck off! Secondly you marketing morons are incredibly transparent to anyone with an IQ above room temperature (sadly a relatively small percentage of the population). Ultimately you are only fooling yourselves. Last of all, flash mobs should definitely be banned. No one should ever be subjected to this level of bad tatse. At least morons who watch Andrew Lloyd Webber shows do so voluntarily.

  99. Luke R
    30 Aug 11
    9:02 am

  100. This article is shitty, it is just a list of videos with the words “this is shit”. Ok, Mumbrella everyone in the world is stupid except for you.

  101. JB
    30 Aug 11
    10:45 am

  102. Wondering how many other people didn’t get even get the newsletter because it ended up in spam because of the language?

  103. AdGrunt
    30 Aug 11
    11:42 am

  104. @JB – almost none, as few spam filters use swearing, mild or otherwise.

    Unless you work in government…

  105. Flash your.....
    30 Aug 11
    2:03 pm

  106. keeping the theme alive I suggest we embrace “Gash Mobs” where groups of girls gather in central places like Pitt St mall and take their gear off in the name of a brand needing promoting

  107. Alison_F
    30 Aug 11
    2:33 pm

  108. @Flash your…. WTF are you talking about??? You seem to have taken a nice, interesting thread and turned it into an embarrassing sexist rant… Good one!

  109. Flash your.....
    30 Aug 11
    3:39 pm

  110. @Alison_F that was the plan!!

  111. AdGrunt
    30 Aug 11
    6:12 pm

  112. Apologies for digressing from the main topic, but around the headline’s choice of words, this seems an appropriate contemporary reflection of Australia’s relationship with the vernacular:

    [Includes swearing, but it’s the ABC]

    Headline doesn’t bother or offend me, btw.

  113. Anon
    30 Aug 11
    10:16 pm

  114. It’s so obvious what companies the negative commenters work for (hint: see list of 10 shittiest branded flash mobs)

  115. Karen
    31 Aug 11
    8:53 am

  116. Love the list, only one word describes these – embarrassing!

  117. SP
    31 Aug 11
    1:42 pm

  118. Oh dear!!! I wanted them to be fabulous to deploy my cynical attitude towards the out dated notion of Flash Mobs so started with Qantas, then BMW expecting at least a high level of ‘Fun’ – but I ended up clicking stop as I cringed under my desk.
    Even though the idea has been done to death it can still capture people & make them smile & even have mileage to get pr and create conversation…..but then I guess chicken pox can do the same thing….except of course, for the smile part.

    Make it big, make it bold and spend some coin & most of all make it memorable…that is if you want to do this to your brand….
    It’s not experiential marketing, it’s just ‘an event’….

  119. Reuben
    31 Aug 11
    4:17 pm

  120. Why is *anyone* still talking about flashmobs? Is it 2003?

  121. Original...'yeah right'
    1 Sep 11
    2:50 pm

  122. Glad someone else saw the Domino’s one and thought it was lame – so much good digital work but an opposing ‘experiential’

  123. Confused
    1 Sep 11
    8:09 pm

  124. I don’t get it?

    My apple mob, does not play flash vid’s?

    Am I doing something wrong?

  125. phatboy
    2 Sep 11
    12:32 pm

  126. ouch.. there’s just something inherently cringeworthy about flashmobs..

    if i see one, i think i’ll walk into the middle and start dancing the wrong moves.. just to mess it up..

  127. bag
    3 Sep 11
    5:28 pm

  128. Can’t believe you left off the Fletcher Jones strip tease one at Southern Cross Station with the Salvo’s band. You posted the video on youtube.

  129. mumbrella
    3 Sep 11
    5:50 pm

  130. You’re right. I think I must have applied the mind bleach…


    Tim – Mumbrella

  131. l
    6 Sep 11
    2:40 am

  132. The equal work for equal pay bunch would wanna be keeping their day jobs and working hard for their money.

  133. Once a mobber...
    6 Sep 11
    12:16 pm

  134. Flashmobs are great. These are not flashmobs.

    In my mind, nothing that is organised to promote an event or product is a flashmob.

    Please do not sully the term with your horrifically poor dance events. *shudders*

  135. Nemo Thorx
    6 Sep 11
    12:55 pm

  136. there is no such thing as a “branded flashmob”

    This is performance advertising – performatising.

  137. Tony Richardson
    6 Sep 11
    1:28 pm

  138. Watch the BMW one again, if you can.

    I think the hysterical blonde woman that we see three times, is focussing on the the two guys in suits on the right of screen.

    They’re just hopeless, bless ’em.

  139. Heather Murphy
    9 Sep 11
    10:10 am

  140. Hilarious! Loved the article and sent it around the office

  141. Damien
    9 Sep 11
    7:19 pm

  142. It’s extremely rare that you find advertising to be anything more than rehashing someone else’s idea. Funny watching some of these and watching the public just walk past without even looking at the performers,

  143. OTT
    13 Sep 11
    9:38 pm

  144. Haters gonna hate.
    Sad some of you have to make it personal.

  145. Pere
    14 Sep 11
    1:30 pm

  146. Go outside, read a book.

  147. Pere
    14 Sep 11
    1:43 pm

  148. BMW, you are so cheesy…lawdy, lame..

  149. MIchael
    16 Sep 11
    9:44 am

  150. This is by far teh best flash mob ever. New Zealand style. Seriously watch it.

  151. Doug
    20 Sep 11
    5:19 pm

  152. This sort of thing has gone way beyond hilarity now….it just makes you so angry when you watch it! My eyes have been forever damaged by these abhorrent displays.

  153. Max
    21 Sep 11
    2:54 pm

  154. You need to get the target product right first to suit the event.

    I think the GAME one works very well as it is supporting a dance and leisure product – perfect alignment.

    Cars/ Pizza’s/ Mobile phones IMHO not the right product to support the event

    As always, about getting the right advertising medium which supports the product being promoted.

  155. John
    23 Sep 11
    12:26 pm

  156. You missed TrueLocal’s shitty flash mob:

    Although after seeing the above, it doesn’t look so bad.