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Meow Wolf Taps into ’90s Mall Culture to Hype New Exhibit



A typical American mall scene—circa the 1990s—gets a trippy makeover where aliens mingle with shoppers and mannequins come to life, stores have sardonic names like “Earholes” and mall walkers form a cult-like community.

This surreal take on a well-known shrine of conspicuous consumption comes courtesy of art collective and entertainment company Meow Wolf as a way to promote its upcoming exhibit, “The Real Unreal,” opening this summer in a Texas-sized shopping plaza.

The 60-second hero video, under the tagline “Come Find Yourselfs At The Mall,” intends to draw existing fans and newbies to 29,000 feet of exhibition space in the Grapevine Mills mall, part of the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. 

The short film is an anchor of a campaign that includes quirky, experiential billboards, pop-ups and other activations from Meow Wolf’s in-house team and independent ad agency Preacher.

The work is intended to serve as a “wonderfully weird and mind-bending invitation” to the exhibit, opening July 14, according to Marcus Brown, creative director at Preacher.

“Meow Wolf is a brain-altering, insanely fun and welcoming experience,” Brown said. “Our goal was to pay homage to that through the lens of nostalgic mall culture, inspired by Meow Wolf’s philosophies, artists and lovable characters.”

Few details have been released about the content of the art show itself—brand materials describe it as “transformative” and a way for guests to “explore new depths of their own individual imagination.” The space will have room for local vendors, retail therapy and emerging music acts via a live performance venue.

A pop-up activation promises consumers “A Whole Nü You.”

Meow Wolf already has an established track record in place-based entertainment—and 2.6 million cumulative visitors—at three permanent exhibits in Denver (“Convergence Station”), Las Vegas (“Omega Mart”) and hometown Santa Fe, N.M. (“House of Eternal Return”). Dallas is its largest market to date.

Preaching to the choir

The art collective, which has previously worked with Wieden+Kennedy, chose the Austin-based agency to help get “The Real Unreal” off the ground partly because “they embraced our inherent weird—they came to the table with several very insane, very Meow Wolf ideas during the pitch,” Kelly Schoeffel, the group’s chief marketing officer, told Adweek. “We engage in the work on a deep level, and their team was down to dance with ours.”

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