These Creatives Made a Plastic Slab to Ease Smartphone Addiction, and It Sold Like Crazy

'Our parents are very proud and confused'

Imagine a replacement for your smartphone that's 100 percent resistant to toilet water and never has to be charged. And it costs around $10. This magic device does exist—and it was invented by a group of agency creatives.

There is one catch: the NoPhone isn't exactly a phone. Rather, it's a completely nonfunctional plastic rectangle meant to help curb smartphone addiction.

Copywriter Chris Sheldon and art director Van Gould, who work together at independent agency Barton F. Graf, were inspired to create the NoPhone, in partnership with TBWA\Neboko Amsterdam creatives Ingmar Larsen and Ben Langeveld, while at a rooftop bar where they observed rampant smartphone usage.

"Everyone in the bar was holding a smartphone, including us," Gould said. "We realized that phone addiction is everywhere. It's ruining your dates. It's distracting you at concerts. It's disrupting you in movie theaters. It's clogging up sidewalks. We decided to create a real solution."

That solution is what Gould and Sheldon call a technology-free alternative to constant hand-to-phone contact. With a thin, light and completely wireless design, the NoPhone acts as a surrogate to any smart mobile device.

The day after their epiphany at the bar, the two visited a 3-D print shop to make a prototype.

"Before NoPhone, we had no experience running a company. At first, the project was simply a social statement," Gould said.

As word spread, they started to receive emails from people who wanted to buy the NoPhone. They raised $18,000 through a Kickstarter campaign and soon armed themselves with a copy of Starting a Business for Dummies.

Despite an unsuccessful pitch on ABC's Shark Tank, the product has sold over 12,000 units to locations as distant as Madagascar. Gould and Sheldon say some therapists are even giving the NoPhone to their patients.

"Will Google decide to buy our fake phone technology? Maybe," Sheldon said. "Our parents are very proud and confused."

In September, The Wall Street Journal featured NoPhone's newest product on the heels of the iPhone 7 release. The NoPhone Air is the company's most recent concept, billed as the least advanced NoPhone ever. The product is perfect for people looking to downgrade to nothing — it boasts no features, looks and feels like air, and is currently available for pre-order at only $4.99 for December delivery.

In addition to the original NoPhone and the NoPhone Air, the company offers a version with a mirror called the NoPhone Selfie. NoPhone products are available for purchase on Amazon and the NoPhone website. 

Even though they are the proud owners of the largest and only fake phone company in the world, Gould and Sheldon still spend their days and nights thinking up ideas for Barton F. Graf.

"We love working at Barton F. Graf. Gerry [Graf] is an entrepreneur, and he is very supportive of entrepreneurship," Gould said. "When we have free time on the weekend, we work on plastic rectangles. It's the American dream."

But selling a product that does nothing isn't easy.

"It is much easier to come up with ads for products which have at least one feature," Sheldon said. "Working at Barton every day helped us immensely in becoming the marketing geniuses we are today."

His advice for other creatives with an idea for a product?

"Give away free samples to celebrities like Tommy Chong. Ignore all emails from SEO specialists. And please don't start a fake phone company."

Copywriter Chris Sheldon and art director Van Gould, two of the creatives behind the NoPhone


Recommended articles