If you’ve walked through Northern Liberties and Fishtown recently, there’s a good chance you’ve seen them. A pair of storefronts have been completely covered in bright blue, providing a punch of illumination on the brick-filled streets.
Sprawled across each one, in wide-spaced typography that looks like a morph between Helvetica and Century Gothic, is the phrase: “404 Store Not Found.”
A Billy Penn reader wondered recently if they were perhaps a new street art project. A social commentary that denounces capitalism, maybe? Something expressing a stance on the gentrification that leads to small, local business owners closing up shop? A Mural Arts effort to liven up the streetscape of the burgeoning districts?
Nope. None of those things. What are they? Ads.
If you stop and look closely at one of the cerulean facades, you can figure that out. While the “404” slogan on the ads is big and bold, each storefront also has a tiny paragraph printed in white that explains the details behind the stunt.
That savvy combination of shock and subtlety adds up to the first wave of a marketing campaign for Visible, a new phone service. According to the company’s marketing, Visible is built for “digitally native consumers” that want a no b.s., clear-cut way of signing up for a plan — without going to a store to do it.
Visible a startup…sort of. It’s backed by Verizon Wireless and was incubated from within Verizon, Visible brand lead Beth Veen confirmed to Billy Penn.
“We needed to find a way to address the needs of the market for digitally savvy consumers that do not need to touch or feel a phone to learn about it,” Veen explained.
As of now, the facades – which are placed on rented out storefronts — have popped up in nine markets Visible has identified as being digitally motivated and trendy. These include Boston, Chicago, Denver, New York City (Manhattan and Brooklyn), Los Angeles, Philadelphia (Northern Liberties and Fishtown), Seattle, Atlanta and Washington D.C.
This campaign is meant to target “creative and authentic types,” Veen said, adding that this method of getting the message out was also meant to be less disruptive than traditional advertising. “We also wanted to respect these vibrant neighborhoods without disrupting them with walking billboards.”
The service, which is entirely app-based, is in something of a pilot stage, although it is definitely already a “fully-baked product,” per Veen. So far, it’s only compatible with iPhone devices, though Android service is promised soon. It costs $40 a month for unlimited data, messages and minutes in the U.S., all running on Verizon’s 4G LTE Network.
Visible wouldn’t reveal much else about their future plans. New York City is getting some kind of futuristic, immersive experience as another advertising ploy:
The 404 Stores in Philly can be found at 180 W. Girard Ave. and 629 E. Girard Ave. They’ll be “up and running” until Nov. 25.