Whoops: Mobile carrier Visible's billboards include typo

The spelling error was actually a stunt.

Company: Visible 
Campaign: OOH typo
Agency partner: Madwell (creative, PR, media relations)
Duration: September 2019

When digital-carrier Visible put up a series of billboards in Denver, Colorado, advertising "unlimited massages," people on social media were quick to point out the error. But the spelling mistake was actually a stunt and the brand followed it up by offering free unlimited massages.

The idea for the campaign originated with "a legitimate typo that one of our writers made" while working on campaign copy, said Jeff Gillette, Madwell’s executive creative director. The mistake resonated with the Madwell team.

"We realized it could work for the brand," Gillette said. "Visible has a philosophy of transparency: of not hiding fees or hiding behind legalese."

The team thought: Why not incorporate the spelling mistake into Visible’s marketing, and then keep the promise by providing free massages in downtown Denver?

Planning began in early August. The "free massage" billboards - one mobile, one located downtown - went up the first week of September.

After the billboards went up, Visible was purposefully silent for one week.

"We wanted to see how people reacted," said Gillette. "We did get some callouts, stuff like, ‘Your copywriters should go back to school.’"

The campaign was broken down into two main components, said Kate Erickson, an account director at Madwell.

"Phase one was a groundswell; people catching on and noticing [the mistake] in a more organic fashion," she said. "With phase two, we flipped the switch, announcing it on social and running paid media to draw attention to it."

Unbeknownst to the general public, Visible had hired a number of influencers to participate in both phases. It also explained the stunt, under embargo, to a select number of publications.

On September 16, Visible confessed to the error, announcing that it would remain true to its word and offer free massages. 

The event was held on Saturday, September 21, in downtown Denver from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. 

Close to 900 people attended the event and over 300 received massages.

"Each time someone came and got a massage, we collected their email and added them to the system," Gillette said. 

The campaign generated nine earned media placements, including write-ups in the Denver Post and Marketing Dive. On social, it generated 106 organic posts, with an engagement rate of 5.6% and 2.8% for Instagram and Facebook, respectively. 

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