Phantom Blog

Phantom Blog

Part of the machine.

It’s funny how touching a piece of paper can send your head off to the moon.

Some of my earliest memories are pre-ordering motor cross magazines with my dad at the local corner store (we don’t call them dairies in the UK).

Every Saturday morning we’d drop by to see if the latest issue had come in, at the time all I was concerned about was the die cast models of Yamahas and Suzukis that came with each issue, however I never failed to marvel at the glossy, high resolution imagery, long before I could read the accompanying articles.

I can still remember the look of the store front, old newspaper branding adorned the windows and the cashier was so friendly. Years later, after moving around a bit, it’s the same corner store I would go before school to load up on fizzy drinks and sweets.

A few years after that our gang of ne er do wells would loiter outside that shop on a Friday night asking passers by to buy us cigarettes… not my finest moment, but REAL memories.

In my last trip back to the UK in 2022, I was sad to see that store had closed down, its now a vape shop.

Classic.

That whole ramble above came flooding back just from thinking about magazines, sure I remember some of the best memes, but its not really the same, is it?

I stumbled upon Submachine after chatting briefly with The Boss (used as a term of endearment, as well as fact).

It’s like one of those time-warp moments, that sucks you backwards, falling endlessly into the cosmos, all your life’s memories passing you by, straight back to those first MX mags with dad and the corner shop.

Submachine and Phantom are a match made in heaven, both forged out of innovation, experimentation, the want to push things forward, all whilst remaining true to oneself and the craft.

In the last few weeks we’ve every size Submachine poster out on the streets of NZ.

Real, good, stuff.

In a world of overly digitised EVERYTHING, we need magazines like this to exist.

‘Talk to a surfer after they’ve been out on perfect waves and their enthusiasm will rub off on you. That buzz is infectious. Riding a motorcycle gives you the same buzz. Its the existence of such things that provides us with a shared sense of joy and optimism’.

Art, cars, motorcycles and optimism.

We were lucky enough to grab Al Best, the brain behind Submachine for a quick yarn about himself and the mag,

G’day Al, cheers for making a belter of a mag! tell us a little bit about yourself? 

Although I was born in Auckland, I was educated in Australia. I returned  home to NZ in 1991 and started a career in advertising, working simultaneously as an art director, illustrator and designer. 

I have had a lifelong love of cars and motorcycles, bordering on obsession.

Is there a backstory to Submachine?

With no work during Covid, I taught myself how to screen print and created Submachine as a brand for the t-shirts I was making.  While operating my printing press (a very manual process), I realized I was part of the machine so that’s where the name came from.

People who bought my tees would sometimes send a photo of them wearing it. I would use their photo to make a fake magazine cover and send it back to them. It was just done as a bit of fun, but it got to the point where I really wanted to know what this magazine would be about so I decided to try and make it for real.

Why the decision to go to print, opposed to staying strictly digital? 

I wanted to make something people would keep. Something of value. It had to be printed and I wanted it to feel special, so we use a heavy stock and a special laminate for the cover. People actually stroke the cover and smell the ink when they pick up Submachine. You don’t get that experience online.

What are your thoughts on people saying print is dead? 

(I’m basing this answer on magazines, rather than the print industry as  a whole)

I think people like to be dramatic. What they mean to say is; “Magazines are  not as abundant or profitable as they once were”, which is true. It must be  awful to watch your readership numbers drop away and have to lay off staff and close your doors, but that has happened a lot in the last decade.There  is no question that it is a tough game however, creative people tend to put  pleasure before profit and good magazines tend to be fountains of creativity,  so I don’t see any reason for them to be pronounced ‘dead’.

When the CD came along, they said vinyl was dead but people soon realised there was something missing in the experience of handling a CD and a large part of that was down to the printed component.

I think most intelligent people are aware of the disastrous effects the smartphone is having on society. Books and magazines are a reminder that it is possible to put down the phone and stop scrolling, and yet still being entertained or enlightened.

Any big plans or projects for the future, both personal and for Submachine?

I have met so many amazing people since I started the magazine and many of them have become friends with whom I’d love to collaborate. Hopefully some of the project ideas we’ve had will blossom. On a personal level, I need  to keep learning and have a few things on the boil at the moment that will be new territory for me. For example, I’m about to pinstripe hot rod flames on my fuel tank. This will either be a joy or a disaster!

As for the magazine, I love making it so much. I get such amazing feedback on it so I feel like I am doing something right. 

Sounds absolutely epic mate, look forward to seeing some more of the mahi!

If you’re keen to get your hands on a mag, we’re running a little competition on our socials.

Check out more from Submachine on their website and Instagram.

Don’t be scared of the dark.

The nights are drawing in and autumn is peeping over the horizon. 

Too soon, right? We feel you.

Seasonal variations are a fact of life but that doesn’t mean your outdoor campaign needs to go into hibernation. Phantom has some brilliant ways to shine a light on your message during the dark hours. More on that later.

What we really want to focus on right now is the idea of the ‘Night-time Economy.’ 

Here’s why your brand needs to be out on the streets after dark.

What makes night time the right time?

There’s a huge range of businesses that earn their coin outside office hours. From hospitality to events, entertainment and accommodation, these are operations that thrive outside the nine-to-five. 

If you’re retailing cocktail mixes or the latest Hollywood release, night is the natural time to promote it. Your audience is out on the town, so why not reach them when they’re in the mood to have fun? 

As a corollary, certain precincts attract a tonne of traffic after office hours. From the Christchurch CBD to Auckland’s Ponsonby, Phantom has the urban sites to grab their eyeballs. 

So even if your product is not one that’s consumed at night, you can still reach a valuable chunk of your audience. A creative campaign for a bank, a ute, a breakfast cereal or a coffee brand could resonate with people who are away from their screens for once.

And here’s another bright idea:

Target your night-time audiences with our smart tools.

The sort of people who go to shows and eat at downtown restaurants can be very valuable to an advertiser. That’s why we’ve put a lot of work into creating tools that predict where those people are going to be. 

Another trick of the trade is proximity mapping. We’ll help you buy the poster sites clustered around your stockists or on the typical path to purchase. It could be a simple as putting your burger ads near your fast food outlets (but only if you have a poster portfolio as comprehensive as ours).

With over 6,500 poster frames and urban bollards across Aotearoa, we’ll help you craft a schedule that captures buyers when they’re ready to pull out their credit card.

Less gloom, more glam.

In the olden days, street posters could only be viewed by ambient light. It was a case of hoping the streetlights shed enough photons after dark

These days, we have dedicated lighting on a large proportion of our network. You get 24/7 exclusivity with the assurance that your message will be lit throughout the dark hours.

Phantom also has an array of eye-catching options, from custom neons to Flex LED. These are ideal if you want to create something with lighting built into the idea, such as  Ford’s bright idea to draw attention to its electrified fleet.

Check out this article for more bright ideas.

The things we do to help brands thrive outside the nine-to-five.

Phantom Billstickers can deliver your brightest ideas because we have a dedicated team to build customised sites. 

Our Phantom Labs team love helping clients create something special, whether it’s glowing tigers to promote Asian lager or this electrifying anti-scam campaign from Netsafe. 

After all, the biggest sin in outdoor advertising is a message that can’t be seen. Being seen is our reason for existing.

These days, that applies to the night-time economy as well. 

HQ Happenings.

With a population of 1.63 million, Auckland, by global standards isn’t exactly the epicentre of the world, but by New Zealand standards thats a fair chunk of people inhabiting a single place.

As an outsider (yes, the writer resides in Wellington) Auckland is a pleasant surprise upon each visit.

There’s an eclectic buzz, and palpable vibrancy out on the streets. Not dissimilar to Melbourne, and despite Wellington claiming the ‘creative’ crown, AKL has its own thing going on in terms of its look and feel, with an abundance of creativity of its own.

Auckland is the Phantom Billstickers HQ and houses our largest percentage of staff. There aren’t any unsung heroes within the team, we’re close knit, and all push the beast forward, our knowledge of the market, the streets and strategic campaign management is second to none.

That being said, somewhat out of the limelight at times are the newly formed operations team at the
HQ.

Last week we caught up with the Wellington crew on a rare coffee break between being flat out on the streets executing the best street poster campaigns in the nation, if you missed it, jump here.

This week we figured we’d do the same to the crew in Auckland.

Coco and Arama are recent additions to the team, and have done an insane job at leading from the front to overhaul, streamline and execute impeccable operations in the big city.

As luck would have it, on Monday Auckland was battered by rain, which meant that the hands were on deck inside where they couldn’t escape the marketing crew and the dreaded questions and camera combo.

A team that chooses action over words, we managed to snag a couple of words before it was back to business.

Cheers for taking a minute team, How long have you been at the team with Phantom

Coco – I’ve worked for phantom since 2022 November, so like a year and half?

Arama – I’ve been with the team since way back in Jan 2024! 

What about your day to day?

Coco – My day to day has varied through my time with Phantom. I’ve explored multiple roles finally landing on the warehouse manger position. My day to day now consists of starting on the admin, updating my dispatch spreadsheets, receiving rolls of posters, folding said posters, putting said posters into sets (the design order in which they’re displayed), sending said posters to all the cities and towns for the next week’s run. I’m powered by nicotine and caffeine each day.

Arama – I can’t give you the most descriptive answer due to how long i’ve been here, but I’ve found that my day to day consists mainly of helping Coco handle stock, coordinating our contractors, fixing pasting issues and doing some odd jobs from the sales department.

I am still learning the ropes but I’m feeling a lot more confident in my role as time goes on. The work environment is super positive and everyone does an amazing job at keeping me on my feet!

I feel like I’m rambling a little but massive shout out to Alyssa for hiring me!!

If a client came directly to you for advice on running a campaign in Auckland, what would it be?

Coco –  My advice would be giving them Madis number (sales team queen). 

Jokes aside, my favourite campaigns are always when the posters are in sets that have an image that runs through all the posters so they all connect as one image. I feel like those campaigns always slay and are quite eye-catching. I would also say to lean into the labs side of the business and have some sort of interactive feature so people will engage more.

Arama – Call Coco 🙂

I did warn you all, few words, more actions.

This is something we’re proud of, always action ready.

The Creative Capital.

Wellington, 

The city that can’t be beaten on a good day. Where creativity lives on every corner.

Wellingtonians love the arts, culture and creativity. It has long been a city that attracts thinkers, creators and innovators.

Wellington is unlike anywhere else on planet earth.

Despite a touch of too much wind at times (controversial topic, we’ve heard people move away and miss it) Wellington has everything a city needs, it’s the perfect size, compact and bustling to the brim. 

422,000 sets of eyes moving through the city each day, each with their own tastes, interests and things that make them tick. 

Phantom Billstickers has had a presence in Wellington since 1986. We’ve changed outfits, buildings, vehicles and just about everything else you can imagine since then, but we’re still out there putting the good stuff on the streets. 

Over that time, our network of frames  in the capital has continued to grow and has become part of the cultural fabric of the city. It’s hard to turn any given corner without seeing our frames. Maximum reach doesn’t do it justice.

We’ve got over 60 bollards spread out across the city which house the best of arts and creative posters showcasing events, shows and happenings in Wellington and beyond. You can’t go far without being introduced to something entirely new. We have every size frame imaginable laid out across the city, big ones, small ones, some as big as your head.

As the city expands, changes, develops, so does our network. If you’re looking to make an impact on the streets, Wellington is the place to do it. With new bike lanes being added city-wide, now more than ever people are out of their vehicles, commuting for any number of reasons on a daily basis. 

To maintain the ever growing network, and navigate the changes within the city, we rely heavily on a core team of staff in Wellington

It’s been a while since we’ve got the word on the street, but we figured it was about time to hear some yarns from the capital crew.

We caught up with Cullum (left) and Dan (right) to get a bit of a run down.

This is probably about as formal as we’ll ever get fellas, no pressure. When did you start with Phantom?

What has your journey looked like since starting?

Cullum – 

I started off pretty causally to ensure I had time to give to skateboarding, I was pasting on weekends and distributing retail during the week. Then Covid happened and I opted to jump into full time Pasting. Since then, things have been pretty turbo, I’m now managing and coordinating the operations for Wellington and Palmerston North. 

Dan –

I’ve only been with the team for a hot minute, but Its been really good. Phantom has quite a young energy to it, from management down which is nice. It still feels hungry and not only open to change but seeking it. The Wellington outfit is so small that its easy to have a good team vibe with our pasting contractors really included in that.

What makes the Wellington city network unique?

Cullum – 

One of the most unique characteristics of Wellington is that it’s pretty much walkable in its entirety, that means there’s a real buzz on the streets. Whether people are commuting in the fancy new bike lanes, cruising on skateboards or walking the streets. It’s geared up for people to explore on foot. Wellington is best experienced on foot, and that works perfectly with Phantoms network here, there’s endless opportunities to be seen and to interact with street posters that are eye level. 

Dan –

Wellington is so compact that the CBD, the arty cultural quarter, where you’d go for a scenic walk, and where you’d go out for dinner or to meet friends for a night out are all one and the same. They entirely overlap through the small central Wellington area which Phantom operate in.

If a client came directly to you and asked for advice on running a campaign in Wellington, what would you say?

Cullum – 

Utilize the bollard network, they’re gigantic structures that extrude from the street to the sky, they’re unmissable and that’s a great place to start to visualize your campaign. The size format is also really interesting and gives a unique feel to a traditional poster.

Dan –

I think if youre promoting an artistic or cultural event you can just sell it straight, as Wellingtonians have so much good will towards those events but if you’re a big, more corporate company then humour always helps the medicine go down. The Big Save Furniture campaign taking the p**s out of the price of truffles is a good example of softening a hard sell with some humour and creating a more intimate connection with passers by.

street posters advertising campaign new zealand event advertising auckland wellington christchurch and hamilton

Are there any big projects coming up in Wellington?

Cullum – 

There’s a new skatepark being built in Kilbirnie which I’m a key stakeholder for (medium rare).

This should bring a whole new audience to Wellington and will put us on the map nationally for this kind of facility. This is really going to play into Wellington’s creative community, Skateboarders are naturally creative and always seem to engage with the work we do. There’s a couple of big Phantom projects in the works, but I have to keep pretty tight lipped on it all for now, just keep your eyes peeled.

Dan –

There’s some big changes on the horizon for the Wellington network to maximise visibility, but this is under wraps for the moment. My lips are sealed.

Any other sentiments or thoughts?

Cullum –

Nah, better get back to it.

Dan –

Same!

Cheers to the fellas for their words, if you’re out and about in Wellington and see them on the street, be sure to hit them up for a yarn, they’ll be more willing to do that than speak to us in interview form.

Display is good. Play is better.

What exactly is ‘engagement?’

Is it a click? A share? An emoji on a social post?

Or is it when people start playing with your campaign?

Of course, all these forms of engagement matter to marketers. But we think the most powerful kind of engagement is when your audience feels inexorably drawn to interact with your idea.

That’s why we love creating ads you can play with.

Putting the play into display.

Every day tens of thousands of people walk past Phantom’s street-level sites. 

What say you gave them something fun to do?

You could invite them to throw a virtual snowball, the way Lego did in New York and London. That particular idea involved Augmented Reality (AR) but you don’t have to go all high-tech with your invitation to play. 

You could send them on a treasure hunt, with golden keys hidden in Phantom lockboxes? Each key would unlock a free hotel stay. A pretty cool way to celebrate the launch of the third QT Hotel in Auckland.

Or you could invite people to spin a dial and then scan a QR code to learn something fascinating. Or build aeroplane window shades into posters for people to pull up, and see where Flight Centre could send them? Or hang real poi from our posters, so kapa haka fans can show off their skills. 

You could go large, like Pearl Jam are doing with their latest release. Their St James takeover in Queen Street uses a blacked-out site that mirrors the album artwork. Then we added LP-sized pop-outs for the fans.

Whatever it takes to turn your poster into a playground.

Steal these ideas.

At Phantom Billstickers, we’re up for anything. QR codes, AR, music players, product giveaways, lasers, basketball hoops. If your team can dream it up, our Phantom Labs guys will find a way to make it work on the wall. 

We’ll help you get people playing tic tac toe, scoring goals, pushing buttons, peeling stickers, or tearing off giant coupons. 

Use them all – or better still, come up with something so wild we’ve never even thought of it.

The serious side of play.

While it’s fun to get people interacting with your posters, there are some serious points to be made. 

Play is psychologically rewarding. And it’s not just for kids.

Adults who develop the playful side of their personalities are better at coping with stress. They’re more creative and they have higher levels of wellbeing

People already know this on an intuitive level, which is another reason they respond so readily to outdoor installations that invite them to have a little fun. 

So, go ahead. Give them a moment of playful interaction. 

There’s a good chance it will leave a more lasting impression than a click.