A basement bursting with music and dining experiences, a candy-pink faux launderette, a Vogue photo shoot, intriguing installations and Instagram-friendly moments at every point, not to mention a slide in place of an escalator: welcome to the "Curiosity Rooms", where Google has chosen to promote its latest smartphone Pixel 3.
This year’s activation is a behemoth in both scale and ambition – 12 windows, three floors and a packed programme of free talks, workshops, gigs and special events across five weeks, with Google turning 55 Regent Street at London’s Piccadilly Circus into "Pixeldilly Circus".
The seed to scale up was sown after last year’s activation (in Selfridges for two nights, delivered by Jack Morton Worldwide), when Google made the decision to take an element of the experience to Stylist Live, where the potential for something longer-term and larger-scale was evident.
Describing the space, Kirstyn Stark, head of UK hardware brand marketing and partnerships at Google and lead on the project, says: "We wanted to create a space where people can come and explore, and be curious in a playful way. It ties in perfectly with our overall campaign, as Google and Pixel 3 are all about discovery and making every day extraordinary.
"This year, we felt this should be open for a longer time to let people come in and play with all the tech features on offer. It is a test in terms of a longer-term activation, but we like to experiment at Google. Our US Hardware Store has pop-ups with music events, and so with this activation we liked the idea of having a physical space to get people involved."
Amplify was appointed in June to deliver the experience, working alongside Halpern, 72andSunny, Essence and OMD, with Kru Live providing brand ambassadors. Amplify was given just eight weeks to turn around a cavernous site and create areas to highlight the Pixel 3’s features, from the latest Google Lens technology to the Group Selfie Cam, while offering visitors weekly podcast recordings, YouTube music events and countless other experiences.
"This is retail design meets experience design," Amplify’s executive creative director, Jeavon Smith, says. "With 12 incredible shopfront opportunities, it really enables the brand to animate directly from the high street."
Nine publishers, from Hypebeast to Condé Nast, have partnered Google to deliver a packed programme of talks, workshops and experiences and to ensure a steady flow of the target audience over the five-week residency. "We are targeting consumers who are naturally curious and willing to innovate, as we are a challenger brand when it comes to this product," Stark explains. "So we hope to engage the younger tech-savvy and tech-positive audience who are in tune with culture, fashion and experiences."
Success will be measured in footfall, social reach and consideration rather than sales. "This is a brand experience first and foremost, so we aren’t expecting to transact. This is about consideration," Stark adds. "We need get the product into people’s hands. We have a Piccadilly takeover, fly posters, plus social and digital, so this is a fully integrated campaign for Google. And, of course, the incredible media value from the 12 windows stretching out across Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus."
The space will be open until mid-December.