Sugar & Partners, Phantom Billstickers and Soul unite to save historic land—Updated

It might seem advertising feeds our capitalist society but sometimes agencies offer up their creativity to support a cause.

Sugar & Partners and Phantom Billstickers recently proved that point when backing efforts to save Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve in Auckland by launching and promoting a virtual occupation of the land.

Auckland Council has plans to develop the land for residential use, however, many are up in arms because of its historic and sacred significance to Māori. The land, near Mt Mangere, is argued to be the city’s oldest suburb as Polynesians arrived at the beginning of human settlement in New Zealand.

Leading the opposition to the development is community group Soul (Save Our Unique Landscape) and when one of its leaders, Pania Newton, went to Sugar & Partners with the story, joint executive creative director Damon O’Leary was incensed.

“Pania Newton’s ancestors had their land seized from them in 1863 after a proclamation went out demanding they pledge allegiance to the Crown. They had been there for 28 generations. Suddenly George Grey’s handing over this amazing spot to farm cows. Pania wants all New Zealanders to continue to have access to this historic site but the council has empowered a developer to chuck 400 or so houses on it that will destroy much of the site and ensure only a few very rich people will enjoy the sea views and special atmosphere,” O’Leary says.

Lending a hand to the cause, the agency came together with Soul to developed a ‘virtual occupation’ for people who want to join the protest. Visitors to protectihumatao.co.nz are given a run down of the protest’s mission before being invited to enter their name and email address to virtually occupy the land.

Joint executive creative director Dave Nash says conception of the idea was really simple, it took what was happening on the land on weekends and enabled it to live on by making it digital. He says it also enabled supporters, who couldn’t commit part of their day to actually attend a protest march, leave their mark and more importantly share it through their social networks. 

It’s “digital activism at its best,” he says.

“….you can protest through virtual occupation, spread the message on social, and plague the powers that be – all from one site. We‘re hoping it adds up to the developers backing off and the Council ensuring this land continues to allow public access for future generations of all Aucklanders.”

So far 1958 people have virtually occupied the land.

But the site doesn’t stop there. It also offers links for users to take further action by sending an automated email to mayor Phil Goff and minister Nick Smith to communicate their opposition to the development.

To help spread the word about the virtual occupation, Sugar & Partners invited Phantom Billstickers to come to the party, and key account manager Ben Stonyer says it “loved the idea”.

To help, Phantom put up 25 posters on some of its best Auckland sites, because it too is “angry as hell about what the Council’s allowing,” Stonyer says.

In a fitting style, the aged parchment-like posters mimic the proclamations that ordered the Māori off the land in the 1860s.

The posters are soon to be joined by a print campaign to drive more ‘occupiers’ to the site.

Nash says the virtual occupation will last “as long as it takes”.

“Pania, her family, friends and supporters won’t give up – so we’ll do whatever we can to continually support and drive action on the site to support their ongoing battle. We’re currently running dark posts on Facebook to replicate the poster concept, challenging all Auckland’s to take notice. There is also some targeted premium magazine placement’s planned.
Hopefully one day soon common sense will prevail.”


Partners: Sugar & Partners / Boys from The Factory / Phantom Billstickers 

Client: Save Our Unique Landscape – protectIhumatao.co.nz

Protest Lead: Pania Newton

Creative team: Damon O’Leary, Dave Nash, Nic Hall, Vikki Cheng.

Account Service: Jemma Western

Studio/Design: Gary Butcher

Producer:  Kati Ohens

Developer: Artem Verbo

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