In 2011, the FlashMob phenomenon (see below) has evolved into a tool for peaceful silent protest, by dancing in pre-organised groups at high profile, politically relevant chosen locations. No signs are needed. No placards. No spray paint. No action other than a group of people choosing to dance together at an agreed location at an agreed time. Authorities must resort to arresting people for something.. (can you arrest people for dancing in public?), so at the Jefferson Memorial they chose to arrest the couple that began kissing, citing offensive behaviour in public.
It is an example of the power of the extraordinary act, to incite both group joy and strong feelings of community cohesion while also challenging the status quo to wake up. Since so much of the western world is focused on entertainment rather then political awareness, what better tool for peaceful protest than dance? Is this the beginning of a western 'Arab Spring'? Will new laws against dancing in public be invoked in the USA?
SO WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH SHAW TV? I teach an advertising college module to photography students learning how to work concepts into images. Every time I teach a class on advertising at least 30% of the younger students stare in amazement as the constructs of advertising are explained to them. They have never even considered before how advertising works and how to read the myths it depends upon establishing in peoples minds. Once studied in depth the history of advertising since the 1950's clearly demonstrates society's growing acceptance of misinformation, lies and clever deception as fair game in advertising. The last decade in particular has seen advertising co-opt many slogans of youth and activism to the marketing of their products. but since the advent of socail media the whole game is changing. Now the bar is being set higher. For example... Shaw Cable TV has repainted all its mobile vans recently with a new slogan that announces "Change is Good".. ie make the switch to Shaw Cable/TV. But they have now gone a step further. Here is the banner on their website, announcing "Together is Amazing". Ignoring the fact that it is terrible grammar... what does it actually mean? What 'myth' is Shaw Cable promoting about its services?
And what has this got to do with FlashMobs? Well, the ongoing tendency for advertising to co-opt, mimic, copy or outright steal the style, aesthetics and messages of Youth and Activists is exactly what led to the T-Mobile advertising campaign that launched the FlashMob. It was an example of an ad agency thinking like artists and youth themselves, instead of stealing. Now the direction has been reversed in this case. After T-Mobile came many copy-cat FlashMob dances around the world (well, in wealthy western nations anyway.) Now it has evolved 'back' into the hands of artists and activists, who also very well understand the Group Power of the Extraordinary Act. (As do the revolutionaries of the Arab Spring). I call it Sweet Justice.
Young people all over the planet are working together and supporting each other in protest against the paradigms of free market capitalism, profit-over-people, mind-numbing celebrity cults, etc. That is what lies at the root of the co-opted Shaw Slogan 'Together is Amazing". But it is not amazing or together, to sit rooted in your house staring at a television set, with watered down news stories, tribal sports thuggery, fashion-fascistas and the whole panoply of North American TV soaps. 'reality tv' and commercials. The Shaw Banner makes me want to vomit. It offends me. Am I supposed to think that if I sign up for cable TV with Shaw I will feel like dancing and have instantly lots of friends to dance with?
But… if you click on the image it takes you to a new url: http://www.togetherisamazing.com/#/home Once there, you can click to have "Fun", read "News" or to... "Events", where Shaw users can post up info about upcoming events, categorized under "Community", "Social Issues" and "Other". So Shaw is actually providing a portal online to its users for engaging in social activism, after all. I can't help but wonder if they have trademarked the phrase "TOGETHER IS AMAZING"? As my old dad used to say... "It's hard to see the wood for all the trees"... in the complex world of advertising and society, these days!
Oh.. and to celebrate Shaws commitment to the environment you can enter for a chance to win a Ford Hybrid vehicle...
"Enter to win a Ford Fusion Hybrid by Signing up for eBill
Shaw customers that sign up for eBill between March 21st and April 22nd will be entered to win a two
year lease for a Ford Fusion Hybrid or a $100 gift certificate for Shaw products and services. Isn't it
great how one good thing leads to another? "
Perhaps activists are winning the battle for global consciousness after all? Or are corporations simply deciding to play along with social activism as long as there are profits involved? Which brings me back to the Jefferson Monument.
Citizen FlashMob = get noticed, get smiles, get arrested
Corporate FlashMob = get noticed, get smiles, get publicity that leads to profits
Discuss amongst yourselves...
BACKSTORY: 'Spontaneous' Flashmob dance events began after the infamous UK commercial for T-Mobile saw choreographed dancers surprise passersby in a busy Liverpool train terminal station. Since then T-Mobile has also continued the pace with new T-Mobile commercials, such as the one at Heathrow Airport.
And here's is a local event put on by the Arts Umbrella young performers school, in Vancouver, BC to entertain travellers at YVR at Christmas time in December 2010. Curiously.. I wonder if this event had a corporate sponsor.. I'll have to look into this a little deeper… ;)