Phantom Blog

Wellington manager Myele: Music and new sites

Making music, booking sites and defusing punch-ups in Wellington.

Myele Manzanza is Phantom Billstickers’ Wellington Manager. Like many of our team, Myele has multiple talents and a passion for the arts. Sometimes you’ll find him making music and touring the world, but you’re equally likely to find him negotiating with landlords for new street poster sites.

Myele shares his thoughts on de-escalating fights with angry groundskeepers, why offering landlords free money isn’t always enough, and how clients can make a bigger splash in New Zealand’s creative capital.

Myele Manzanza Wellington area manager

What’s your official title at Phantom Billstickers?

Chief Diplomat, Wellington Bureau, or Wellington Area Manager. But what’s in a name anyway?

How did you come to be working for Phantom? 

I’d been working part-time for Phantom for four years, taking flyers and posters around Wellington cafes and other outlets. Throughout that time, and still to this day, I’ve been maintaining an active music career. I’ve been able to tour and travel the world on a whim, but still have a job to come back to, and make sure the rent’s covered.

Earlier this year I took on the Wellington Area Manager role, which has definitely been a step up, but it’s the challenge I needed.

Take us through a typical day on the job.

Probably the best thing about this job is that there isn’t really a typical day.

The biggest part where I’m adding value is site development. Finding wall space that I think would work, figuring out who the owner is, and getting it signed up.

It seems simple enough as I’m giving landlords free money for something that doesn’t require them to do any work, but there are many different motivating factors. At root there’s a financial incentive, but it’s also been fascinating on a psychological, economic and social level to see how different people think about money, property, business, advertising and aesthetics. That’s where the diplomacy part of the job comes in.

I’m fortunate that the team is at a point now where day-to-day operations can more or less run themselves. This frees me up to be more outward facing and find ways to move things forward.

What’s the weirdest challenge you’ve faced?  

I won’t name names or locations, but there was one groundskeeper who got physical with one of our pasters after a dispute over ladders, glue and property rights. It started to veer into strange racist and abusive terrain. Some personalities are trickier than others but we got to a workable solution in the end.

Any tips for clients, to help them get more bang for their buck?

The A3 format is a cost-effective way to get lots of little pings all over the place, especially for the independent arts and events. While bigger posters have a more obvious impact, if you’ve got 100 or 200 A3 posters around the city, the cumulative effect is pretty powerful.

What’s it like working for Phantom?

There’s a culture of relaxed-but-onto-it energy that I enjoy. We don’t wear suits but we get shit done. Also, since moving into the manager’s role I’ve learnt a lot about business from Rob, Jamey and Jim. They’ve been good mentors who’ve been able to offer guidance, kick my ass when needed, as well as give me room to figure things out and find my own voice in the organisation.

What are your thoughts on Wellington?

For a city that trades on being the creative capital, the actual creatives have minimal capital. The talent is definitely there but it’s a small city so the opportunities to take it to a level where it can be sustained as a career are pretty limited.

It means the city has a lot of wasted potential, either with brain drain where the talent has to go overseas to get recognition or make decent money or with ‘bankruptcy’ where the artist has to find other work to sustain a life. In my case, I’ve fallen into both categories.

One of the reasons Phantom makes sense for me is that our principles align, in helping artists communicate what they’re doing. Whether it’s being able to hook up 25 A3s for free, through to taking care of big commercial clients that give us the financial headroom to keep things affordable for artists. It’s a tough balance to strike but I think Phantom makes a pretty good go of it.

Robin McDonnell has paste in his blood

Paste in his blood

Robin McDonnell has the serious-sounding title of Managing Partner but what he really prefers is Chief Billsticker. He started out pasting his own posters over Phantom’s efforts on the mean streets of Christchurch and eventually graduated to a role inside the Phantom organisation (which sounds like something from a superhero movie).

Read on to find out how he’s bringing digital tech to the street poster scene, why an apology may be better than asking permission, and how a 5 am poster run led to him becoming world famous in Invercargill.

Robin, what does your role involve?

Keeping an eye on sales, operations, asset management, system development, marketing and new initiatives. I’m responsible for championing our team development, removing roadblocks and keeping the company moving forward.

A lot of what I do centres on our bespoke operating system Pasteand our real-time fulfilment and reporting suite Pasted. I’m currently working on a smart media booking system that will allow instant, intuitive booking of our entire 4,000+ inventory by target demographic, customer segment and location.

What gives you a buzz at work?

I love the intersection of new technology delivering old technology that only Phantom can offer. It’s the best of both worlds.

We also have a great culture that brings out a lot of creative solutions to the challenges and ideas that come our way. It also occasionally ends up in some pretty out-of-control and ridiculous workplace conversations too…

Name a poster campaign that stands out in your memory. 

One of our earlier campaigns that have stuck with me was Playstation 2. We launched a guerrilla attack on the streets of New Zealand with placards around statues, footpath stencils and street posters. We were still apologising months later for liberties taken, but the thing that stayed in my mind was the simple, strong imagery that’s still recognisable long after the gaming technology has become obsolete.

Closer to 2018, we’re far better behaved with leased, council-approved locations but I still really like simple, bold campaigns like the current Skope Classic 2018 posters that pop in our bespoke multi-coloured frames.


robin mcdonnell phantom Billstickers street posters out of home advertising

What’s the strangest situation you’ve faced?

You’ll encounter a lot of ‘strange’ on a paste run at 5am. I was once enlisted to plaster Southern Sting (Southland Netball) posters through central Christchurch the night before a big game. I was snapped by a photographer and ended up on the front page of the Southland Times.

Months later I was spotted sticking up posters in Southland and congratulated on doing my bit for the team. They even took my photo to prove they’d met me. That’s the power of the poster and my 15 minutes of fame in one.

How did you come to be at Phantom?

I’m originally from Addington in Christchurch, which is close to where Phantom’s roots lie. Because of that, street posters have always been part of my life. I have memories of admiring Phantom handiwork and later attempting to cover Phantom posters with my own.

In 1999 I met Jim Wilson when I got a summer job at Phantom and quickly realised this was what I wanted to do. I also started working with co-conspirator and Phantom’s other Managing Partner Jamey Holloway who, like me, had started as a billsticker a few months earlier. It was the start of a partnership that’s lasted almost two decades and gets stronger every day.

When the opportunity came up in 2004 to move to Auckland and establish a Phantom operation here, I sold everything and just went for it. Since then we’ve been building New Zealand’s best nationwide, street-level, urban media network.

What does that mean exactly?

We’ve created a whole new category of outdoor advertising that exists nowhere else in the world and is even starting to be copied.

Our hand-built frames and art installations bring a smile, our installation is perfectly flat, many of our sites are lit for 24-hour exposure, our pre and post-campaign reporting is industry-leading, and our team is committed to our customers’ success.

If you could put one client on posters, who would that be? 

One industry I’m super-keen to promote is electric bicycles. Did you know there were 20,000 electric bikes imported into this country in 2017? That’s 20,000 vehicles off the road, and I’d love Phantom to be part of that movement.

Want to be famous on walls around New Zealand? Talk to us now.

Meet our Photographer, Rachel Rowlands

Meet our Photographer – she makes you look good. 

Like many people who work at Phantom Billstickers, Rachel Rowlands is a multi-tasker. Her official title is Presentation Manager, but you could also call her App Co-developer, Retail Co-ordinator, Image Overlord, photographer and Head of Accountability.

What does it involve? Let Rachel tell you herself.

Rachel Rowlands Photographer street posters auckland wellington christchurch dunedin poster printing

Rachel, how do you spend your days at Phantom?

I am quality control. Each week I review up to 6,000 images of new posters pasted up by our network of Phantom installers on the ground throughout New Zealand. Our install teams take a picture of each new poster and upload it into Phantom’s unique Pasted app. A poster might go up at 8am on Monday and I’ll be reviewing it at 8.05am.

I’ll be checking each poster is looking good, looking out for any damaged frames, graffiti, or anything else that detracts from the quality of our clients’ image. Sometimes I’ll spot greenery that’s getting in the way of the poster, so I’ll send a message to the guys to trim that bush.

Anything else?

I was part of the in-house team that developed the Pasted app, which went live in spring 2017. We put a lot of work into creating a world-first digital tool for street media. It worked so well we recently extended Pasted to our retail network. So now our clients can see in real time how their flyers and in-store posters are being displayed in cafes, shops and libraries around New Zealand.

Another part of my job is as photographer, taking hi-res shots of posters for clients. I’ll be out on my bike, riding around the city to capture our sites at their best. Then we’ll email the client a link with high-quality photos of their posters plus a map so they can get out and see their campaign in situ.

What’s your background, and how did you come to be working for Phantom?

I’m a trained animator and have worked in the industry, so I’ve got a creative background as a photographer and illustrator and I understand how technology works. I came back to New Zealand in 2015 after a very long honeymoon in Southeast Asia and was looking for a job. I’d always been a fan of Phantom and liked their music posters, so when I saw an opening for a job in their retail team I applied for it. Then the guys upstairs got me into the photographer and presentation role and it took off from there.

Any recent campaigns that stand out in your mind?

I really like the Deadly Ponies campaign that went viral last year with removable My Little Pony Stickers on custom-printed Phantom posters. I love the My Little Pony character and I love Deadly Ponies’ bags, so it was a great combination.

I also enjoy capturing images of musicians, artists and other New Zealand celebrities in front of their posters. It was great to have the opportunity to take a picture of Selina Tusitala Marsh in front of the Phantom poster promoting our latest issue of Café Reader.

What’s something that most people don’t realise about Phantom?

We do retail flyers as well as posters, and that can be a great combination. Customers get the visual impact of the poster, and then they can pick up the flyer, take it away and act on it.

With flyers, I’ve noticed that good design always gets better uptake. At the same time you can include more detailed information and even give people an incentive to act, like money off in-store.

What’s your passion outside work?

Draw, draw, draw! I’m constantly filling up sketchbooks with images from my imagination, and also stuff inspired by the random things people say in the office.

My dream job would be to paint and draw all day, and get paid loads of cold, hard cash. Having brunch would have to be part of it too. Until that job comes up, Phantom’s a pretty cool place to work.

Your brand would look good in our frames – Rachel is there to make sure of it. Contact Stu Palmer now to make it happen.


Interview with Christchurch advertising mogul, Niven Boyle

The unforgivable sin, according to Niven Boyle.

Niven Boyle’s a media planning veteran whose agency The Media Dept happens to be based in Christchurch. He’s a fan of street posters, which is why we asked about his favourite campaigns, the future of the medium, and the thing no self-respecting designer should ever do on posters.

How did you come to be in the ad business, and why did you set up The Media Dept?

I fell into it really. After a background in airline sales and marketing and then being involved in setting up Sports Betting in New Zealand, I moved back to Christchurch and got a suiting job with a local agency. It didn’t take long for my boss to realise I was better suited to media because I was good with numbers and loved going out for long lunches. Those were the days…

I suppose it was just a natural progression to start my own company, which was over 10 years ago now.

What is it like being based in Christchurch? 

We’ve got a lot less fences and buildings than we used to have. There are fewer site options, and without much of a CBD there still isn’t the pedestrian traffic that other cities have. Owners of new buildings seem less keen on having posters, which makes things a bit trickier.

Whilst we run a lot of national campaigns, we do tend to become quite adept at making budgets stretch further as we’re used to working with budgets that have a lot less ‘0’s!

As far as planning and buying New Zealand-wide campaigns, we can do anything that agencies in other centres can.

What’s the place of street posters in the media landscape? 

Posters are great for delivering frequency and getting into areas not available to other media. As soon as you’ve hit the streets you’re immediately communicating to a lot of people. You can saturate a city or target a particular suburb, so the flexibility is ideal.

Name a street poster campaign that sticks in your mind. 

I still remember the old AMI Insurance campaign ‘Party at Kelly Browne’s’. While it ran across a number of other media, I first recall seeing street posters in odd places and wondering what the hell was going on. It could have been the embryo of social media – you decide you’re having a party and put posters up everywhere to make sure 10,000 gatecrashers turn up.

Niven Boyle The Media Dept christchurch poster advertising out of home south island dunedin

What’s your biggest bugbear with the way people use the medium?

Creative that uses size 7 font!

Seriously, I don’t understand why so much outdoor advertising looks like a transposed magazine ad. A simple, clear message and as few words as possible should be deemed mandatory. If that is ignored then the creator should be sent to Outdoor Design 101 for remedial lessons.

Could you share a story of a poster campaign that worked brilliantly?

I’ll always remember the very first campaign we did for ‘All Right?’ This is a Healthy Christchurch initiative set up through Canterbury District Health Board after the earthquakes. The timing and creative were perfect after what had happened to the city. It captured many of the emotions of the time and just totally resonated with people.

Any thoughts on the future of street posters, especially in today’s media landscape?

I think there will always be a place for real posters. Digital will become more prevalent as time goes on but there are still things only the printed word can do. For example, your printed street poster is up 24/7 for as long as you’ve booked the site, instead of being displayed on rotation for a fraction of that time.

For the foreseeable future I can’t see posters being usurped.

See what Niven Boyle is talking about- book your campaign today

Bay of Plenty Advertising Expert, Conal Hume

Robots, stolen poster frames, a naked man doing a handstand.


They’re just some of the things Conal Hume has worked on, replaced or encountered during his time with Phantom Billstickers.

Conal’s currently our Bay of Plenty Advertising expert for Tauranga and Rotorua. He first joined us in Wellington and has brought his energy, imagination and initiative to bear on every role he’s undertaken to date.

You started out obsessed by robots…

I moved to the Wellington, wanting to learn how to make robots. Not the kind that build cars but the kind you see in cartoons and movies. The fun, imaginary robots…but I wanted to find ways of making them real.

I started with a course at Massey but after one year I could see that was not going to teach me how to make the things I had seen on the TV and in movies, so I moved to Natcoll. One year later I had a Diploma in Animation and Digital Video – I made the best virtual Ninja Turtle model my tutor had seen – and had just started a Diploma in Digital Video Post Production.

So how did you end up at Phantom?

I had seen people putting up posters all over town and thought that could be a fun job. It’s essentially ‘copy and paste’ but physical, on buildings in the real world. Then I stumbled across an ad looking for a Billsticker and applied. I said I could start that weekend and boom, hired. Thanks, Ben.

I started with the Newtown run, part-time Saturday and Sunday. Then I went full-time and later began making mock-ups, building frames, modifying sites for campaigns, and even designing and installing new sites in unconventional places like gardens, windows and non-flat wall space.

It was a fun five or six years. Frankly I’m not sure how long it was – it was all a bit of a blur that I became obsessed about.

Eventually I decided to move back to the BoP, and fortunately Phantom were keen to start up a Bay of Plenty Advertising division with me in charge of operations. Yee ha, here we are!

Take us through a typical day on the job.

I get a list of what posters need to go up and I head out to put them up, then check up on them to make sure they’re in good condition.

Every now and again someone will try peel a cool poster off the frame but give up once they realise it’s pretty well stuck on. I’ll fix the damage and make it look nice again.

Is there a poster campaign that sticks out in your mind?

I really like the ones that are interactive. When I was in Wellington there was a campaign where we put up Jockey underwear on sites, and the public could nab ‘em. It was pretty funny seeing the look on their faces when they posed for photos.

Then there was the time free chocolate was put inside Phantom frames over Christmas. Hordes of people showed up wanting their chocolate fix.

Bay of Plenty Advertising poster printing advertising posters tauranga rotorua wellington auckland

What makes posters special compared to other advertising media?

The analogue nature of the street poster. People stop just to watch the new poster go up, especially if it’s windy. Some even want to help out. It’s really the best of Bay of Plenty Advertising.

It bugs me when they’re taken, but it’s actually nice when someone steals a frame. Sometimes they really want the poster but can’t peel it off, so they rip the frame off the wall and take it home. Over my time on the job I’ve seen a dozen or so Phantom frames in people’s backyards or lounges. Loving homes, I hope.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve had to deal with as the Bay of Plenty Advertising Specialist?

Once I rocked up to a site and the site wasn’t there. It was pretty big, so where did it go? And one of the guys I worked with once saw a naked man doing a handstand in the early hours of the morning.

It can be pretty raw at times. One time in Christchurch, after hours on an install blitz, I went for a walk along the coast. I stumbled upon a group of guys that had an injured comrade with a severely broken ankle and head wound after falling off a cliff. I ended up hugging him for about an hour to provide body warmth until the helicopter came to pick him up.

What are your interests away from work?

I like designing things, and finding out what works and what doesn’t. I bought a 3D printer and have been experimenting with 3D structures that work the same as their virtual counterparts. It’s one step closer to building a fun robot. What a time to be alive!

Writing programmes that make computers do things is another interest. I have recently been trying to make those ‘magic eye’ images that have a 3D image trapped in a 2D plane. I reckon it could work really well with Phantom’s Weather-tight pasting technique.

I also like to go exploring new places like hiking tracks or go for a kayak somewhere. It’s a great way to find new things and just chill out and be one with nature.

To find out how you can make the most of our Bay of Plenty Advertising, please contact us