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A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog


Kelly and I travelled to New Plymouth in Taranaki about a week ago. They call Taranaki “The ‘Naki” and
they are quite proud of this. This is a place where you can still get a decent, rural, mince pie. You don’t have to
be carrying pair of chopsticks in your back pocket and there are few airs and graces. That’s the way I like it.

The object of the trip was to visit the bloke who was restoring my 1957 VW bus in Inglewood which is
very close to New Plymouth. Steve Crow, the New Zealand porn king, was raised in Inglewood. There’s a
man who has done a lot for the world.

I hadn’t been to New Plymouth for at least thirty years.

Back in the early ’80’s I’d sometimes send bands through the pubs in New Plymouth. There were a lot of working men and
country people and so any band visiting the area was always going to get a good crowd. You’d usually do
a one-nighter at the Bell Block on your way through to Auckland. These were in the days of the massive
‘booze barns’ and in these sorts of towns there were always a lot of fights; men who were working on oil or gas
rigs all week, or working in the freezing works, or on farms, would often come to these gigs for a fight.
They’d get all the dirty water off their chests and then they’d go back to their sheep.

Too much excitement is not good for them.

The best band I ever saw in a booze barn situation was Th’ Dudes. No question about that. They had this enormous
capacity to wind the crowd up to the extent that sweat was dropping off the traffic light poles up and down the car-park outside.

The guy restoring my bus was a genuine down to earth Kiwi bloke. He was about forty, bearded, wearing shorts, a
VW Nationals tee shirt and working man’s boots. I like this salt of the earth type.

He had around him various garages and barns with about twenty old Volkswagens in various stages of restoration
and a couple of old Porsches.

I think he spends a good part of his day doing what seems to me to be an enormously satisfying pastime – he welds
up old steel. He cuts the bad stuff out and he welds the good stuff in.

I put a photo of my bus up on Hookbook and called it a bus. There was a flurry of activity all around the world as various
people chimed in to tell me that my bus was, in fact, a panel van.

I knew that.

We are all tremendously susceptible to these things. To other people wanting to educate us or lecture
us or to say things that are in no way helpful and way out of sync. Oftentimes they hover over the top of their computers looking
for something to lash out at. They are fuelled up on self-centredness and possibly hard liquor and amphetamine as well.
They create a tide which no person on earth can stand up against. Hookbook is a tide and oftentimes of ill will. You cannot
rollerskate in a buffalo herd.

Me? I try to cut out the bad parts and I weld in the good parts.

It has been said that I, like a lot of others, am afraid of criticism. That’s not quite what it is. I own a successful
business in New Zealand and so I get criticised quite frequently. Those people who play around with sheep all
week love to have something to hate. It’s not that I am afraid of criticism (in fact I find it a great motivating force) it’s about
what I’ll do when I’m criticised and I grew tired of jail about twenty years ago.

When I was a kid I had to struggle to get through some pretty major illnesses. It was at this time that I learned all
about survival. I was sent to health camps and I spent months in hospitals and was told at one point, by my mother,
that “they” (the doctors) were going to try to keep me alive until I was ten and then they’d take a lung out. My
mother, an extremely passionate person, was also prone to getting a bit hysterical at times. My father, the depressive
with his William Faulkner books, was the anchor of her feelings and whims.

At this time, I had a doctor (Dr Marion White) who’d visit me almost daily for weeks at a time. She’d give me a shot of something to help
me breathe. It wasn’t her fault, but her personality wasn’t pleasant and these days she’d be a dragon on the internet and Hookbook.
She’d be looking for people to make a mistake or to advise them on how Frank Zappa was really a long way better than the
Velvet Underground. We all know these cretins. They surf among us.

After Dr Marion White I had a doctor who was Scottish. His name was Doctor Jack. He’d come up Russell Street in Dunedin to see me in his beautiful old Wolseley. I’d wait for him to come. His middle name might have been “Humanity” and we all need it.

Dr Jack would scarcely give me any medication (that’s always the best way). He’d just play
Ludo with me and, of course, I got better. I began to breathe freely again.

I like being around people who help me breathe. I don’t like being around people who would cut me to the quick. I fear what I
may do to them. But, I ignore them and they move on to someone else.

There was always the sense that Dr Jack, with his caring and genuine style, was cutting out the bad bits and replacing them with good bits.
It was always the good bits of me that he concentrated on. He’d laugh and laugh as we played Ludo. I was deeply fortunate.

I probably owe Doctor Jack my life.

It’s the two-second test: does it convey the message quickly and clearly?

Peter Brown spent five years studying architecture before realising he made a better art director, and then a further period at the ‘school of advertising’ (Ogilvy & Mather) before realising he made a better account director.

peter brown

After stints in Sydney and London he joined Colenso in Auckland in 1994 as New Business Director. He went on to become General Manager at Lowe and Draft FCB and now runs his own agency, Roycroft Brown.

The brands he has stewarded are too numerous to name, but here are a few: Vodafone, Honda, Tower Insurance, Placemakers, L’Oreal, Guinness, Stella Artois and BMW. More than a few of these famous names have ended up on street posters. Why?


What was your first campaign using Phantom Billstickers, and why did you put street posters on the schedule?

I first used Phantom when we launched Vodafone Pre Pay, back in the day.

The Vodafone brand’s DNA was ‘Youthful Spontaneity’ and Pre Pay was targeted at the younger end of the market who didn’t want to be tied up with contracts, as opposed to businesses who were locked into plans.

Street posters were ideal for the creative opportunity they provided and their suitability to youth-oriented challenger brands.


What was the outcome?

 Pre Pay was vitally important in getting Vodafone up to 1,000,000 customers and making real inroads into the consumer end of the market.

Street posters worked because Pre Pay recharge cards were available from dairies all over the country. Prior to that business plans were only available through Vodafone stores. So street posters were vitally important in letting consumers know they could purchase top-ups at that location


In your opinion, what do street posters do especially well?

They have an immediacy that other media just don’t seem to have. When you’re on the street, out and about doing stuff, shopping, eating and socialising, a poster can connect when you least expect it.


Any thoughts on the future of posters in general, especially with digital becoming more important?

Electronic media live in the ether – after 30 seconds they’ve been and gone.

By contrast, outdoor media have longevity, especially in the case of Phantom’s street posters, where you can target multiple and specific sites throughout the country.

This means you can be very specific with your messaging to a geographic area or target market, and you can build a multilayered message using two, three or four executions beside each other. So a street poster campaign can really break through the clutter and reinforce a brand message at the ground level.

Street posters also reach buyers while they’re on-the-hoof, rather than driving in busy traffic, so the advertiser has much more time and flexibility to convey the message and be creative with it.
Whilst digital adds impact and flexibility, the base tenet of a billboard or street poster still stands. It’s the two-second test: does it convey the message quickly and clearly?


Any examples of great poster campaigns that really nailed it?

Grand Theft Auto did a very impactful ‘Wanted’ campaign that made you stop and read. And of course the most recognisable and iconic poster of all time was the Uncle Sam and Lord Kitchener war recruitment poster.

The old Silk Cut cigarette posters are classic brand-builders, and any poster by Shepard Fairey also speaks volumes.

Phantom Billstickers Art Project


Callum_Art project portrait

Artist Callum Rooney (Raw Power Print) with his work for the Phantom Billstickers Art Project



The Phantom Art Project aims to nurture and strengthen our relationship with the wider arts community in Aotearoa. The Art Project functions as an extension of the long-running Poetry project, where we’re carving out space within the public sphere for creatives to express themselves.

With our street poster sites we’re well placed to provide artists, musicians, poets and writers a platform to gain exposure and reach out to the public. One of our statements to live by here at Phantom Billstickers is ‘Flora for the concrete jungle’, whereby we try to leave each place we touch better, and more lovely than when we found it. We hope the Art Project will be another way we can use our resources to better the lives of others; to give artists a voice, brighten a grey street or just to cause someone to pause for a moment’s thought on their way to work.

Having had such overwhelming interest in the first open round of submissions for the art project, we’ve decided to roll it out as an ongoing project. We will be accepting all mediums of artwork; (Graphic design, painting, illustration, documented sculpture etc) and the competition is open to anyone who would like to see their art on the streets. We will be publishing 10 artworks per quarter, with the artwork going up all around the country in all of our main centres.

Artwork specifications are as follows:

  • Artwork must be provided to us in digital format (PDF or JPG/JPEG)
  • Artwork must be converted to 300dpi, and A3 (210 x 297 mm)
  • Artwork must be converted to greyscale

Please send entries as email attachments to and include your full name, social media or website links and contact details. The next set of art project submissions close on June 1, 2017 after which point we will be contacting all artists individually.

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Street posters – the trump card in Powershops campaign


Powershop is a unique NZ energy retailer in that they actually let you see how much power you’re using, and grab their latest specials in their online shop. But the tricky bit? – how do you encourage people to go online, spend time on their web site and find out what Powershop is all about.

Well simple really. They used Phantom Billstickers as the primary offline medium to drive potential new customers online to play a highly creative and engaging new social media game called ‘Trump Trump and be in to win’.

The promotion asked customers to create new Trump quotes (by tearing words and phrases attributed to Trump off the bottom of the poster and re-applying them to another Trump quote) and in doing so be in the chance to win prizes ranging from $600 free power to Monopoly sets.

The campaign and use of Phantom Billstickers created a humorous, highly engagement campaign that achieved strong interaction with the brand.

To see the campaign for yourself, and why Phantom Billstickers is the ideal media for your brand and message, watch here.

Diary of a Billsticker – San Francisco, USA

This was to be my final poster run before leaving the USA on my way back to New Zealand. I’m writing this some months afterwards and so I can’t even remember which poem posters I was carrying, but there would have been about ten different Kiwi poets involved and two or three Americans.

Perhaps the attached photos will show the poets. Maybe I was carrying some Patrick Connors (a Canadian poet) posters as well. Anyway, I’d like to think I was and it always makes for a perfect day to be putting up posters. Besides I do like the Canadians because they were with us at Passchendaele and they do possess a reasonably sensible health care system and government (from the looks of things).  They’re generally not too imperialistic either and that always makes for good neighbours. Canada can’t be bad, because Lindsay Lohan wasn’t born there.

I stayed pretty close to downtown and San Francisco is quite easy to get around. It’s a great place to walk and loaf about and there’s always a lot going on, you could be fully occupied all day by just watching what people are up to. Everyone knows this city is, and always has been, a tremendously energetic place in terms of the great music, literature, theatre, poetry and everything else that it has produced. It is a very expressive centre and has often adopted a lot new ideas before other places. I don’t know, one is always in a ‘holiday mood’ when visiting other places anyway, but San Francisco just seems to me to be a city with a bounce in its step. The people seem colourful and outgoing and opportunity is in the air. I wonder if the prescription rate for anti-depressants is down here compared to other cities?

It is a city for extroverts and there’s plenty of opportunity to get things ‘off your chest’.  It’s probably harder to be self-obsessed in a place like San Francisco where the culture seems to largely about pulling people out of themselves and getting them involved in their surroundings.

The world owes this city a huge debt, as most of us have at one point or another felt a lot better after hearing some of the music that has been recorded or written here. Strangely enough, it is also a centre for many international financial institutions as well and then Silicon Valley is nearby. There are a lot of immigrants and this also makes for colour, expression, and new ideas.  The whole area flows with creativity.

I walked the area known as ‘The Tenderloin’ to put up the posters. This is a kind of well worn in and ‘informal’ neighbourhood that is famous for Miles Davis once having recorded a live album at a local club.  Now, if that album were recorded in Gore, I’m here to tell you it would have sounded completely different.  I think The Tenderloin is also the area where Lenny Bruce was arrested at another nightclub because he used the right word at the wrong time. Bill Graham, the promoter who changed for all time the concert industry in America, was from San Francisco too and the music he promoted changed the culture in a substantial way. Then you have the best bookstore in the world on Columbus Avenue: City Lights Books. Lawrence Ferlenghetti, the owner, published many of the ‘Beat Generation’ writers and went to court several times for obscenity because he dared to print what was on everyone’s minds.

In the harbour is Alcatraz, once the world’s grooviest prison and home to Al Capone and many others. Steve McQueen drove a Ford Mustang in an irreverent fashion around the steep streets of San Francisco in the movie ‘Bullitt’ and Levi Strauss jeans were ‘born’ here.  This is where Janis Joplin got her big break and Owsley Stanley started ‘cooking’ LSD in commercial amounts and turned the world on.  The Grateful Dead played in the parks for free and Carlos Santana saw B.B. King playing a live gig and was himself set on a course.  The Beatles started and ended North American tours in 1964 and 1965 at the Cow Palace, a local venue. Their set was twelve songs long and I bet their entire gig was shorter than some Carlos Santana lead breaks. San Francisco is where ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine was founded…. And the list can go on and on.

So, I was happy to be putting up poetry posters and the people in The Tenderloin will stop and talk to you and it just made for a couple of very nice days for me.  I’ve thought a lot in my life about the difference an environment can make to a person’s creativity and how that creativity can be bought to the fore and nurtured. Obviously one of the problems in creating say, live music in New Zealand, is that the potential audience isn’t really that large and for everything that people say about the internet (and they say plenty), it is usually harder going to make a living out of the Arts in Aotearoa than it is in lots of other places.

When you get to a place as exciting as San Francisco it really makes you ponder these things. I’ve seen world class talent go awry and askew in New Zealand because of the real lack of rewards and then I’ve seen people make some really bland music (and writing) and reap relatively large rewards because they appeal to ‘middle New Zealand’ by being bland and barely moving an inch.  They continually say what the person before them has said. There’s not much room in New Zealand for many ‘niches’ and I don’t reckon that’s good for us and sheep and cattle get boring after a while.

So I guess you could really, really say I enjoyed my time in San Francisco and it’s always a privilege to be putting up poetry posters.

Thank You!


Keep the Faith,



Jim Wilson


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