Smartphones mean we usually can’t go an hour, let alone a day, without receiving or responding to texts, notifications and DMs. Verizon-owned carrier Visible has taken these rituals and other familiar aspects of smartphones and turned them into a playful installation called Phonetopia.
The pop-up consists of interactive—and, of course, Instagrammable—vignettes inspired by the basics of mobile devices. Attendees can slide into a pool of “DMs” made of foam, dodge “notifications” in an obstacle course, pose in a Duck Face Tub filled with rubber duckies and play Skee-ball in an SMS Arcade.
The experience is free (with RSVP through Eventbrite) and open now through Nov. 24 in Visible’s home base of Denver, Colo. The carrier’s in-house creative team worked with agency Madwell to produce the pop-up inside a warehouse space in the city’s River North Art District.
Phonetopia is Visible’s latest effort to engage with existing customers and make a memorable first impression on potential new members of the digital-only no-contract service, which launched in early 2018, according to CMO Minjae Ormes.
“Visible, as a business and product, doesn’t physically exist for customers. Everything is done through our app and website,” Ormes said. “While that is convenient and acceptable to people, as a new brand it’s sometimes hard to establish an emotional connection with digital-only [campaigns].
“For Phonetopia, we asked ourselves: What happens if we show up in people’s lives in a surprising and unexpected way? What if this is their first impression of the brand?”
Since its launch, the brand’s experiential efforts have also included a fake phone repair pop-up shop in New York that hosted a Lizzo concert and a SXSW activation in March that invited attendees to record their own music. The brand also delivered “hangover kits” to attendees at Denver’s Grandoozy music festival in 2018. Its first ad campaign involved fake pop-up storefronts across nine U.S. cities.
Based on post-event interaction with attendees—which includes follow-up emails with sign-up links—Ormes said consumers are two to three times more likely to become a Visible member after engaging with the brand at an event than viewing one of its traditional ads.
“Phonetopia is a culmination of what we’ve learned from the past few experiments we’ve done. It plays on the concept of who we are as a business and how much people use their phones,” Ormes said. “We want to be able to have a relationship with consumers in more ways than just transactions.”
Along with its installations, Phonetopia has hosted RSVP-only events including concerts by Maggie Rogers and Haim. Before it closes, the pop-up will have concerts from Denver-based artists as well as big-name acts like Anderson Paak.
Visible chose musicians who align with the brand and its mission to be transparent, Ormes said. “We want to make sure whoever partners with us, including artists, are reflective of transparency. We wanted artists who are bold, carving out their own path, true to themselves and shaping culture.”
Along with attendance numbers, Ormes said the brand is measuring the success of Phonetopia by monitoring the number of daily hits to Visible’s site and any growth in followers on social media while the pop-up is open. Since the Denver campaign launched in September with Visible’s sponsorship of Crush Walls, the city’s annual graffiti art festival, Ormes noted that the brand has nearly doubled the rate at which Denver residents are signing up for the service.
Based on the response to its Denver campaigns, Ormes said the brand will maintain its focus on experiential events in 2020 in other markets, hoping to “continue establishing the brand and making emotional connections that contribute to member growth.”