Arby's Flash Mob Turns Spontaneous Joy Into Marketing



Ah, Corporate America. Once again you've taken something good and pure, created by the people, and turned it into a bland advertisement for bad food.

Last week a well-choreographed flash mob infested Times Square to do a "spontaneous" dance routine to an Arby's commercial broadcast on a giant screen. Oh witness the joy:

No amount of Horsey Sauce can perk that up.

Remember when flash mobs were about the joy of giving people a happy surprise? Or scaring the curly fries right outta them?

Arby's could learn a little something from these other foodie flash mobs who got what it was all about...

Can we blame Jamie Oliver for taking the food flash mob mainstream? Sure, why not? He organized one at Marshall University for the first season of his ABC show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. If you see a lot of people carrying woks around campus and you're not in culinary school, you're probably about to be flash mobbed.

Even though this flash mob comes from a commercial entity -- the National Restaurant Association -- it retains everything that makes for good mobbin': a dance so simple anyone can join in but complex enough to cause some beautifully bad dancing, and the what-the-fuck factor of what does Lady Gaga have to do with restaurants. It's a noisy, awkward non sequitur, just as the flash mob gods intended.

Sometimes flash mobs don't just spread joy; sometimes they're designed to make you think. Like this California group, angered by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's anti-healthcare remarks in 2009. Don't like it? Get a bunch of your friends, a horn section, write a political ditty to the tune of Toni Basil's "Mickey," and inform some Whole Foods shoppers. Just make sure the trombone player doesn't wipe out the display of eight-bucks-a-box crackers. Manchurian supermarket flash mobs aren't as much about educating fellow shoppers as creeping them the hell out when groups of shoppers suddenly freeze. This must be the sad, post-apocalyptic market where Morrissey buys his vegan cheese.

Cheer up, sad kids! The world's a happy place when a bunch of scattered friends burst into "Feliz Navidad" at a Mexican restaurant! (Especially when tequila's the reward!)

An opera ensemble in Shreveport, Louisiana, gets it. By turning a local restaurant into a Macaroni Grill with better singing, they introduce the locals to opera, eliciting delight, confusion, some annoyance and ultimately an excuse for people to say, "Dude! You'll never believe what happened last night!" at the water cooler the next morning.

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