If you’ve been scrolling around Instagram or Facebook the last few months, you’ve probably noticed ads for (or pictures from) experiential pop-up events appearing in your newsfeed. These events, 29Rooms by women’s lifestyle website Refinery29 and wndr’s Infinity Mirror Room, are marketed as unique installations to “fuel your imagination” and to “explore a new genre of immersive experience.”
Catering to a younger generation seeking to fill their social media with “likable” content, these pop-up events provide attendees with selfie-worthy moments galore. From rooms full of shredded paper to bathtubs full of rubber duckies, the Instagrammable moments are endless. And people are eating it up. Currently on Instagram, the hashtag #29rooms has over 57,000 posts, and the Chicago event sold out all four days.
BatesMeron’s design intern, Alison Chiyong Kim, attended a three-hour 29Rooms session last week. I sat down with her to talk about her experience and to learn more about what this event was like firsthand. Alison explained that the target audience skewed young, event attendees were mostly in their teens and 20s, with the majority being college-aged or younger. I asked her what she thought the purpose of the event was, and she admitted that it was an experience made for sharing on social media. Clearly this purpose isn’t being hidden from event attendees, but it seems like that didn’t hinder them from coming.
“It got kind of taxing” Alison said, “The event was in a big warehouse and it was hot. I waited in line for about an hour out of the three hours I was there.” Even though the conditions didn’t sound ideal, when I asked Alison if she would recommend 29Rooms to others, she said yes, especially for those in her age bracket and younger.
One thing I also learned from Alison is that most of the rooms at the event were sponsored. She explained that there were rooms presented by Clinique, Planned Parenthood and PlanB, among others. Clearly brands are seeing the power of using new mediums for their advertising in today’s digital age of posting and sharing.
No longer are ads just coming from corporations themselves; by weaving their branding into the lives of their audience through creative partnerships, new media, events and experiences, they’re also getting mixed into our friends’ social media feeds—and not as ads, but as endorsed content by people we trust. For better or worse, the line between what is advertising and what isn’t is becoming blurred.
To me, these pop-up experiential events made for sharing are smart. They’re smart for the companies putting on the events and they’re smart for the corporate partners. Essentially they’ve figured out a way to get people to pay to promote both the event itself and to promote the corporations involved through means of social media. With other events and installations such as Happy Place, the Museum of Ice Cream and Color Factory it seems as if we’re just at the beginning of a new age of entertainment purposely made for sharing (and advertising).
In today’s world, especially for the younger generations who grew up with social media, a great emphasis is placed on curating moments to look fun, cool and enticing. In the quest for the next ‘like’, many of us miss the point of finding joy in the moment and connecting with those around us on an actual human level.
As someone who places a great value on connection, I’m hoping that a counter-culture of screen-free events and groups rises alongside these Instagrammable pop-up events. How do you feel about this new trend in branded experiential events? Are you pro-curating moments or anti? I get the feeling this will be a debate we have for some time and I’m curious what you think. Drop us a note in the comments with your thoughts.