Art school dropout gets stuff done

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Got a crazy idea for a street poster? Chances are it will end up on Ash McKenzie’s desk. He’s the national operations manager at Phantom Billstickers, which (says his boss) looks good on his Linkedin profile, but is really just a fancy way of saying he gets stuff done.

Ash McKenzie talked to M+AD about weird printing requests, sub-standard stock, and the vital role that workflow optimisation plays on the poster production line.

How did you get into the street poster business?
Before joining Phantom I spent eight years in the warehousing industry, driving a forklift in the Mt Wellington industrial area. I’m sure being an art school dropout played a part in me ending up at Phantom as well.

I first got started in the poster business with Phantom in 2014 when I was offered the role of production manager, handling the print process and freight logistics. I was in the production role until May this year, when I moved into National Operations.

What does your job involve, exactly?
I go where I’m needed, so I’ll be in Auckland one day, Dunedin the next, Wellington after that. My working day largely consists of being available to provide guidance and assistance to my Phantom colleagues.

“Sometimes all a problem needs is a fresh set of eyes to spot something that may have been missed. At the moment I don’t need glasses, so I’d say my eyes are fresh enough!

“The other key thing I work on is workflow optimisation, as well as finding practical solutions to any out-of-frame custom campaigns that come our way.

What is the most unusual request you’ve faced?
A request for a scratch & sniff poster crossed my desk the other day. We’re still working on that one!

What do street posters do really well, in your opinion?
They physically get in people’s faces. They don’t exist in cyberspace, where you can easily ignore anything you feel like.

I also get teenage-nostalgic joy if a concert poster for something I’m into comes our way. 1999 Ash would be stoked to have these posters on his bedroom wall.

What misconceptions do people have about posters?
A lot of people think all print and paper is created equal. In fact there are specific equipment, stocks and processes you need to go through to create quality street posters. If someone suggests 80gsm Sumo, you may as well print your posters on the local fish and chip shop’s wrapping paper.

Is there a brand, company or cause you’d love to see in Phantom frames?
I’d like to see the Ash McKenzie Narcissism Project out in Phantom frames. Just me, everywhere, judging you all!

What’s the culture like at Phantom?
It’s the best place I’ve worked at. Everyone’s got their quirks, and conversations can go in very strange directions, which is great. The weirder, the better.

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