Break Free!

So, around Boston I've been seeing a lot of transit billboards and posters promoting something called "Fusion Flash Concerts". The posts are meant to be very counter-culture with the image of a bar-code with the bars stretched out evoking the sense of a jail break. The posters seem to suggest a series of free concerts but doesn't provide any dates or locations. This didn't entirely surprise me, though, as "Flash Concert" immediately reminded me of "Flash Mobs" where the location and time isn't announced until the last minute before the protest. So, these posters seem to be promoting something very underground and new.

Actually, I think they are just telling us that flash mobs are now solidly passe.

We had our first inkling when they were featured on Law & Order, a bell weather for all things mainstreamed. Still, these concerts are definate confirmation. While the posters are designed to look very low cost, they really look like they were designed to look very low cost. Instead of achieving their goal, they just make it obvious. There is a diagonal print error at the top of the signs that's too obviously there. The bar code logo is too cliche and too well designed. Its clearly professional work. All of the copy is haphazard in the way it looks when you are trying to be haphazard.

Of course, most obvious is that this is clearly a major advertising campaign. The posters and billboards are all over the subway system. I've bought subway ads so I know they aren't cheap. This campaign must cost tens of thousands of dollars at least. Something underground and anarchistic like the original flash mobs wouldn't have billboards in subway stations. It takes about 2 seconds to see through the artiface to the fakeness within. Simply put, it screams viral marketing. Oh, the corporate sponser was smart enough to not put their name on the poster, but that's clearly what's going on here.

Sure enough, their website (and no, I'm not linking to them) reveals it to be the work of the Sony Corporation. A simple Google search informs me that Ford is also a corporate partner. Its not like I was into flash-mobbing to begin with, so I'm not really offended by this. Corporations do what they feel they need to do to make money, so whatever. This is essentially harmless. But I do find it generally amusing to see Ford and Sony playing pretend anarachists. There is a lot of viral marketing going around, and while its intriguing, I have to wonder how much it really is going to work in the long run. Maybe, all you get it is a short-term bounce and in the long-run you've sacked the credability of the tools you used. Just more corporations trying to brand themselves as anti-corporate. I just don't see the long-term benefit there.

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