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Going against the grain and going strong: The advertising start-up reviving a lost art

Apparition Media Co-Founders from left: Tristan Minter, Hamish McBride, Tyson Hunter

Apparition Media Co-Founders from left: Tristan Minter, Hamish McBride, Tyson Hunter

We demand more, we want things quicker, and of course, we want it cheaper. These are the commercial pressures a number of industries are grappling with today – and few are exempt. We’ve seen airlines diversify into the ‘low-cost’ market, retailers ditch their stores for online presence, and the media industry drop paper copy for websites and digital signage with a high turnover of ‘on-demand’ content.  

So – if someone were to suggest you give your graphic designer a well earned break and instead, commission artists to labour over a mural for your brand, you’d probably think they were insane. But two years after Tyson Hunter, Tristan Minter and Hamish McBride brought that exact idea to the advertising industry, their trend rebutting and perhaps archaic approach has proven to be courageous, but far from irrational.

‘You can’t get much more authentic than the revival of a lost art’

The Melbourne based trio launched Apparition Media in 2014 with an objective to wed the thriving Australian street-art culture to advertisers wanting to connect with the public inimitably.

Tyson told Dynamic Business: “Brands are looking for authenticity and you can’t get much more authentic than the revival of a lost art form and a hard crafted medium that takes hundreds of hours to produce.”

But the once ‘advertising visionaries’ had something to prove. The concept was the first of it’s kind in Australia, with only one counterpart in the US: Colossal Media.

“We started out by painting murals in our studio of brands that represented industries we wanted to target. We painted murals for Corona, GTA 5, Avatar, Converse and Coopers to get a good cross section of work so we could photograph it and use it as a portfolio to put forward to clients,” said Tyson.

‘From painting Murals for free, the business has exploded’

Tyson comments that they knew straight away Apparition was onto something: “There was a whole heap of excitement around what we were doing,” he said.

From painting Murals for free, the business has exploded. Apparition Media has now painted over 100 murals, added 15 new sites to an ever-expanding portfolio and has recruited 15 employees. The business has experienced 400 per cent growth over the last 12 months and is on track to turn over two million dollars this financial year.

Hearthstone mural

Hearthstone mural

According to Tyson, Apparition don’t see themselves as a threat or an industry disruptor per se. He describes their offering as an “add-on” in a mammoth industry estimated to be worth as much $500 million in Australia alone.

“We are still a very niche market due to the nature of what we do. We will never have 75,000 sites like a billboard company,” said Tyson.

“It’s important to note how we were welcomed into the industry by potential competitors – billboard companies.”

‘What is attractive to the brands is the level of consumer engagement’

This form of advertising certainly doesn’t conform with the idea that brands need to deliver more, quicker and cheaper for the modern consumer – not when some artworks take up to 500 hours to complete according to Tyson. Rather, it appears to tap into people’s underestimated [and therefore neglected] appreciation for art.

Tyson said: “What is attractive to the brands is the level of consumer engagement with the piece of art itself. People stop and stare, take photos and videos and post them on social media channels. People love watching art come to life.

“A connection with the piece develops, transcending connections that might be drawn to digital advertising which currently saturates our surroundings.”

In a short space of time, Apparition has succeeded in drawing some big name brands to its portfolio. Some of these have included Coca cola, Henieken, Playstation, Nike and Vans.

‘We begged, scratched and crawled through the first 12 months’

Impressive from the outside, but on the inside, paving their way as industry pioneers hasn’t come without a lot of challenges, hard graft and a great deal of self belief on the side.

Tyson said: “We begged, scratched and crawled through the first 12 months nearly going under several times.

“Everything about this industry is challenging; from site acquisition, staffing, finding clients – to the actual production. Sometimes we put so much work into projects it is quite literally ludicrous.

“If it wasn’t for the on going support of Bank of Melbourne, Coca Cola, Vans and Dulux, there’s no way we would have got to where we are now,” said Tyson.

Currently limited by the amount of sites they have, Apparition views their upcoming expansion into Sydney as critical to their growth strategy. In the long term, Tyson says that new opportunities for Apparition are becoming increasingly evident and these include the potential to diversify revenue streams by creating artwork for campaigns.

“More and more we are being asked to create the artwork for campaigns,” Tyson said.

However, he continues:

“This won’t be until we have conquered the walls of Australia!”