Three of Fitzroy’s finest are blurring the line between advertising and art, and some big-name brands are knocking on their door.
“We paint walls.” That’s the no-nonsense answer you’ll get if you ask the co-founders of Apparition Media what they do. It’s true – but it doesn’t begin to explain the craft and authenticity the trio is bringing back to advertising.
For long-time mates Tyson Hunter and Tristan Minter, the desire to start a business came ahead of the specifics. Growing up in families with histories of running small businesses, they were both exposed to the spirit of entrepreneurship from an early age.
“For me personally,” says Minter, “there was always this idea in the back of my mind of one day just doing my own thing. Working for the man was never my kind of ideal. Where’s the idea? Where’s the thing that’s going to captivate you?”
The idea came eventually, through the pair’s mutual love of street art and years of ‘what if’ chats over beers.
With Hunter’s successful background in sales and Minter’s business experience, they knew that there was only one man with the talent to pull something like this off. That’s where Hamish McBride came in, specialising in photorealism and brushwork.
“Hamish was the best artist I’d met,” recounts Hunter. “If anyone could do it, it was going to be him. We shot him a note over Facebook, like, ‘Mate, we’ve got this idea, what do you think?’ He basically wrote back straightaway and said, ‘It’s awesome. I would love to do it’.”
McBride’s skills bring new life to the almost-extinct sign-writing discipline that used to dominate high streets.
“I know a few old boys back in Kiwi who used to do it back in the ’80s,” says the New Zealand native.” When vinyl-cut lettering came along, it destroyed that industry. Some of them actually ended up going into the galleries and doing fine art because they had the skill set to do that.”
Perhaps due to its rarity, the process is engaging to watch. When McBride and his team are painting, people stop, watch and take photos. “Kids look at the painting, come up and ask all these questions,” says Hunter. “It’s engagement that you don’t get from billboards, digital screens or TV ads.”
There’s something romantic about a craft that can’t be scaled or repeated a thousand times over. “We put hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears into these artworks, to the point where we become connected with the actual piece of advertising,” says Hunter.
“We build a relationship with the piece of advertising itself. Show me another advertising company that could honestly tell you that.”
And when it comes time to change the painting, it can be difficult. McBride may have spent hundreds of hours on a single wall, just to have it painted over with undercoat. “It’s getting easier, but the first one was tough,” he says.
It’s this level of authenticity, in an industry that lost it a long time ago, that is the reason big-name brands want to be involved with Apparition.
“We’re out of the norm with normal advertising. More and more brands are trying to position themselves as authentic. If you look at the latest McDonald’s thing, they’re giving you your hamburger on a timber board with a little basket of fries.”
When engaged by Bank of Melbourne for its ‘For The Makers’ campaign, Apparition set to work on a handful of branches, as well as a 28-metre long span along Knox Place in Melbourne Central. This brought the campaign to life not just in the imagery, but because the craft of hand-painted advertising itself embodies the heart of the brand.
“Bank of Melbourne has been fantastic for us,” says Minter. “Not only because we bank with them and have been supported that way, but the fact that they’re one of our first clients and have been really supportive of what we do.”
Apparition will still paint a mural in a cafe for the love of it, but most of their revenue these days comes from owning the advertising space, rather than just painting on it. From St Kilda and Prahran through Richmond, Fairfield and Fitzroy, Apparition holds permits to walls and wooden hoardings, which it leases out as well as paints.
For each placement, they can tell prospective clients the demographics that frequent the area and the daily exposures that are likely to occur, and it’s this insight into the business of marketing that sets Apparition apart.
Check out The Makers Film Series on the Bank of Melbourne YouTube channel, celebrating the endeavours of Bank of Melbourne customers, including the talented team at Apparition Media.