A Mind-Blowing Experience
Bubbleworks founder Adam Williams may be the Zambelli of bubbles
- by Linda Deckard
- Published: May 8, 2018
Bubbleworks fills large spaces with massive amounts of bubbles, including a major outdoor mall in Mexico City, Antara Polanco. (Courtesy Bubbleworks)
Bubbleworks launched this year as a company committed to creating bubble experiences at major events and venues, starting with festivals like Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival.
The parent company is MagicSnow, which launched 15 years ago to exclusively create snow experiences. “This is a summertime complement to what we started,” founder Adam Williams said.
Bubbles have a long history of delighting people of all ages, but Bubbleworks bubbles are on an industrial scale, filling up to four city blocks with long-lasting, residue-free, chemically enhanced bubbles, Williams said. He can even add smoke and black light effects. “We’re bringing bubbles up to date and making them a relevant, trendy, fun, large-scale experience for festivals, concerts, (electronic dance music) events, theme parks, just about everything. The biggest challenge we have is convincing potential clients we can fill large spaces with bubbles and really transform spaces.”
Alexis Ellstein is convinced. In charge of marketing for a shopping mall developer that owns Antara Polanco in Mexico City, Ellstein made the trip to Bubbleworks in Los Angeles to see the product five years ago. Convinced Bubbleworks could fill the four-block outdoor mall with long-lasting and densely produced bubbles that create the “wow” experience that MagicSnow does during the winter holidays, he booked the show.
“Our group has three or four installations now, all at shopping malls,” Ellstein told VenuesNow. “It’s not a promotion — it’s an event. In Polanco, it’s based in springtime, focused on kids and their families. It’s an experience we bring to our customers.” This year’s experience started April 27 and runs through May 27.
Antara Polanco promotes the experience through its own digital media and lets the customers take it from there. “We do see an increase in traffic — we see a lot of people taking pictures, shooting videos, interacting with social media accounts. We’ve been growing in client numbers coming into shopping malls.”
The event involves four shows a day, at 3, 4, 5 and 6 p.m. The goal is to increase length of stay. “When we have the bubble shows going on, we can see how the parking lot is moving and see more cars staying for more time in our malls,” Ellstein said. “In some of our shopping malls, it even works more than MagicSnow.”
He also likes that it is unique to his group’s malls in Mexico. To ensure that remains the case, they have an exclusive in those markets. “It’s cool to watch the whole mall filled with bubbles. It transforms the shopping mall into something different, something you’ve never seen before,” Ellstein said.
The bubbles are timed to music selected by the client and Bubbleworks technicians. Williams said the cost varies depending upon the number of bubble machines and technicians involved and the length of the booking, from as low as $5,000 to as much as $200,000. In Mexico City, they use 60 machines to cover the space. Outdoors, more is better to account for shifts in the wind and temperature. Most installations use far fewer machines and operators.
Consumers experience “this surprise and delight they weren’t expecting,” Williams added. They almost always take their cameras out and post photos on Instagram and Facebook. “At the end of the season, there are people waiting at the designated show times for this bubble experience.”
Williams first took the show indoors at Pacific Place in Seattle, a four-story atrium-centered mall. Stephanie Heick, director of marketing, booked the event twice a day on Saturdays from June through August. Having seen the effects of MagicSnow, with the mall filled with people waiting for the snow, she was more than happy to book this experiential and very photographic moment for children and adults.
Bubbleworks played the Coachella music festival last month in Indio, Calif. (Courtesy Bubbleworks)
The event garnered publicity on its own, including a story in Alaska Airlines magazine. Heick connected some of the local restaurants, which offered a BubbleUpp hour with sparking drinks at a special price. She also ran a Facebook photo contest, giving the winner four move tickets, popcorn, drinks and a $100 gift card to one of the partner restaurants.
“It was very magical and the perfect ‘Instagrammable’ moment,” she said. “It’s kind of contagious.” Given that hers is a vertical venue, it’s gratifying that bubbles rise, unlike snow, which falls.
That’s one of the reasons Williams sees this as perfect for big venues and events. Bubbles can truly fill large spaces. He is just beginning to market Bubbleworks as its own, bubble-centric enterprise, similar to his decision 15 years ago to concentrate one company on one thing – snow.
“We’re going to elevate the bubble experience to create something no one else is doing and to make it an epic spectacle,” Williams declared.
Be aware this is not your Dollar Store bubble wand you’re waving in the air. This is making bubbles on an industrial grand scale.
They spend a lot of time picking just the right pop song each summer that will complement the bubble experience. At Coachella, the bubbles shot off the Do Lab stage and DJs programmed it.
“We can highlight whatever experience you’re going for,” he said. “It’s an ideal, large-scale, over-the-top spectacle. What we’re doing is a theatrical effect.”
Bubbleworks offers a turnkey experience, including bubble machines, musical programs, and a team of technicians. Installation varies with the size of the experience, six hours to up to six days, as happened in Mexico City. Bubbleworks carries a $5 million commercial insurance policy for snow, bubbles and fog.
Williams said Bubbleworks chemists refined the bubble formula to create a bubble that lasts up to two minutes and can fill large spaces yet leaves no residue when it pops. “We are on our 134th variation of our formula … tested a lot to have a bubble formula that travels far and pops clean,” Williams said.
“Our rule of thumb is eight minutes is the ideal show time,” Williams said of the experience. “We want to leave people wanting more, not wanting to leave. It’s just enough they want to come back.”
At the height of each season, Bubbleworks employs 20-30 people. The ideal conditions for a show would be cool temperatures and some air movement, but Williams has made it work in all sorts of conditions, including the Indio desert location for Coachella.
“When we design an installation, we install at multiple levels, multiple heights. Sometimes bubbles float up, sometimes down, sometimes both,” Williams said.
Now he’s looking for signature projects. “We’re making bubbles; it’s difficult to build credibility unless you do it the right way.” He already did it with MagicSnow, which had 100 percent client renewal this year. “I’ve climbed this mountain before,” Williams said.
- by Linda Deckard
- Published: May 8, 2018