Verizon-Owned Budget Service Provider Debuts New Anti-Store Campaign

Visible seeks to provide speed-capped service in unlimited packages for less

Visible's new campaign emphasizes its lack of real stores. Verizon

Visible, Verizon’s more economically priced offshoot service, is about to live up to its name after months of flying under the radar.

The company, a Verizon-owned no-contract provider that offers cheaper unlimited data plans with capped speeds, is making its marketing debut with a new major ad campaign following a quiet rollout in May. The advertising push involves a host of faux pop-up storefronts in nine major U.S. cities. The catch: None of the stark blue buildings are stores at all. They’re designed to convey the message that Visible’s service is available via app only.

“Sorry, the phone store you’re looking for can no longer be found,” the writing on the walls of the spaces reads. “Instead, we’ve packed up everything that you can can do here and placed it conveniently on your … wait for it … phone.”

Priced at a flat $40 per month, you can activate Visible’s service with a SIM card that comes in the mail the day after you sign up on the app. While subscribers get access to Verizon’s 4G LTE network, download speeds max out at five megabits-per-second (mbps). By comparison, the average speed for normal Verizon subscribers is between five and 12 mbps, according to each carrier’s website. Streaming video offers slightly slower speeds, meaning high-definition quality is likely out of the question. Visible’s FAQ says subscribers should expect 480p video streaming.

“We looked at how much speed it actually takes to do most things that you do on your phone every day—like listening to music, streaming video, looking at social, chat,” said Visible marketing head Minjae Ormes. “We determined this is a package that fits with our one price, one plan and can serve everyday needs.”

Visible currently operates independently from Verizon, and it won’t share any branding or shelf space with its parent company. The startup’s leadership is mostly composed of former Verizon employees. Ormes said it’s too early to speculate about whether the carrier giant might bring the smaller brand closer into the fold if it proves successful.

“We get to build something completely new that also leverages some of that knowledge and the infrastructure that Verizon has at its core business and build a whole new brand offering in the community that’s unique,” Ormes said.

As the priciest carrier on the market, it makes sense why Verizon would want a more cost-effective option to shore up its core service. Each of its major rivals have already built or acquired comparable prepaid or postpaid brands like AT&T-owned Cricket, T-Mobile-owned MetroPCS and Sprint-owned Boost Mobile—though only Boost matches Visible’s unlimited price, and all three offer additional tiers. Verizon’s offering also differs in its focus on digital registration convenience with payment options that include PayPal and Venmo.

“Mobile network operators have been experimenting with different low-cost options to broaden their reach, either via prepaid or post-paid plans,” Gartner telecom analyst Mark Hung said in an email. “Visible provides a lower-cost unlimited option to attract millennials, as evidenced by the use of Venmo as one of the payment options, although it remains to be seen whether or not its speed cap will be a deterrent to the video-hungry segment.”

The fake storefronts, orchestrated by Brooklyn agency Madwell and media partner Zenith VM1, can currently be seen in Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Denver and Seattle. The campaign will soon expand to Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Atlanta.

@patrickkulp Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.