Art and commerce collide once again in Fly’s work for Lightbox and Phoenix

As mentioned in recent stories about Special Group’s collaboration with Anna Funder for PapsaleyMicrosoft’s work with BMD and Icebreaker’s Simon Beck Collection, art and commerce are regularly intertwined in the world of marketing. Creative agency Fly has a long history of doing just that and creating objects that “act as a trojan horse for the delivery of meaning and emotional connection”. And recently it collaborated with artists to help launch Spark’s subscription video on-demand service Lightbox and a new range of charitable drinks for Phoenix.  

Johnson McKay, Fly’s owner and creative strategist, says it has worked with Walter Hansen (real name Tim, art name Walter) on several projects in the past, including its Calender-Art project, which he​ says is still the most commented on piece of art in its office and has been included in two world-wide distributed books on creative calendar art. So McKay says it got him onboard for the Lightbox launch and asked him “to deconstruct what makes entertainment art”. He came up an artwork composed of three central light boxes each representing a group of genres (blue for sci-fi/fantasy, yellow for factual and red for human drama and comedy) that was placed on everything from posters to bowls to headphones. 

“The images are created with light and when the beams of light cross each other, they create endless possibilities and interactions,” says McKay. “The art was used in assisting Lightbox to tell its story in circumstances where a straight up ‘pitch’ may not attract attention.” 

McKay says he has known Hansen since the early ’90s, “when we both coveted over-sized plaid jackets, over-sized Mambo t-shirts and large hair dos with undercuts”. It’s also a bit of a family affair, because he married Hansen’s cousin Jasmin and started Fly with his other cousin, artist Shane Hansen (he doesn’t work with the agency anymore, but collaborates on projects). 

When asked what attracted him to the Lightbox brief, Walter Hansen said: “It grabbed me straight away because I knew I could explore some themes that really interest me, and show what Lightbox offers. Programmes are the obvious one, but the way screens work by combining light was interesting too. There’s all this hidden stuff going on that we understand at a basic level, but it gets kind of surreal the more in-depth you go into how it works.” 

Fly has also recently helped launch the Phoenix Love Project, which saw it working with three street artists to raise awareness for two charities—Sustainable Coastlines and Tangaroa Blue Foundation—who were trying to deal with the problem of over one million litres of rubbish being left by Kiwis on New Zealand beaches.

The three designs—Featherbeard, Milieu and Ginger Bear—were printed on over 500,000 bottles, which spread the message through over 3,000 cafes across New Zealand and Australia and raised awareness of a Facebook app that let Kiwis (and Aussies) nominate the beaches they felt need to be cleaned up. Phoenix then promised to help fund extensive clean ups and native plantings of those with the most votes. ​This activity was supported through a host of art-inspired collateral for in-store, PR (via Starseed), social media and art installations occuring over summer.

In keeping with the sustainable theme, he says it didn’t print any throw-away point of sale, fridge stickers or posters.

“Instead, we created t-shirts, beautiful wooden artist box sets, free art cards on recycled stock and other ways to engage people in cafes with no wastage.” 

McKay says Fly has worked with some really interesting projects recently, from a collaboration with Shane Hansen and BMW, to capturing Air New Zealand’s brand values with Flox, to its collaboration with Greg Straight for Chelsea Golden Syrup.

“Each artwork was centre stage in engaging tough customers, from staff to the media, to Facebook fans,” he says. 

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