Aussie import makes good 

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How many media companies have an arts specialist? “We do,” proclaims Phantom Billboards managing partner/chief billsticker Robin McDonnell, proudly.

“David Grant Bruhn, known around the office as Aussie Dave, is our one-man music, arts and entertainment rep. If your band is looking to publicise its first gig or you have a show-stopping cultural event to promote around town, Aussie Dave is the guy you’ll be dealing with.”

What’s your background, Dave?
“I’m from Melbourne and I’ve been playing in bands since I was 14. In 2014 I came over to New Zealand to have a look around and met my partner. I decided to stay and now we have an 11-month old boy. You could say I’ve gone local.

How did that lead you to Phantom Billstickers?
“I was looking for day work instead of working in hospitality. The Phantom job came up so I applied online and they put me on a paste run. It’s how everyone starts at Phantom, because you get to know the fundamentals of the business, like where the best sites are, and why good strong design works best at street level.

“It also teaches you that the posters have to go up, rain or shine. Nothing else matters. You can have the best sites, a fantastic schedule and great creative, but if the install crew doesn’t get the posters up at 6am on Sunday morning, you don’t have a campaign.”

What else have you learned on the streets?
“K Road at dawn gets pretty interesting. All sorts of characters come up and chat to you. Something about putting posters on walls seems to bring out friendly interactions from people on the street.

“I’ve been invited along to a student budgeting seminar – someone thought I looked like a poor student who needed some help. And the Scientologists are always chatty!” 

“Everyone’s so impatient these days. People can’t wait 15 seconds for a YouTube pre-roll to finish, but a street poster doesn’t bother them.”

What do street posters accomplish, that other media can’t?
“A poster is a 24-hour message. It’s always on, but then the posters change every week, so it’s a constant parade of images. People seem to like that – it makes the street a more interesting place. It’s that phrase ‘Flora for the concrete jungle,’ which is one of our mantras at Phantom.

“Everyone’s so impatient these days. People can’t wait 15 seconds for a YouTube pre-roll commercial to finish, but a street poster doesn’t seem to bother them, especially when there’s a network of permitted sites and high-quality installations that add value to your poster message.

“There’s nothing like it in Melbourne. Where I come from, there are only fly posters and scrappy guerrilla campaigns with no accountability.”

Putting up street posters is a business. So why does Phantom have someone like you, who focuses on bands, festivals and arts events?
“We love our commercial clients and work hard to deliver great campaigns for them. At the same time, we’re always looking to give something back to the community.

“Cool posters for up-and-coming bands or other creative events make the streets more attractive. They say there’s something happening in your town that’s going to be fun, and going make life more interesting.

“Plus, there’s the buzz you get from making a difference. I can be talking to an artist on Monday and see their poster up that weekend. You can see the outcome of your work on walls around town.

“There’s nothing like it.”

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