Discussion topics ranged from the difficulties in staffing digital printing operations, to developing database management as a core competency, teaching sales reps how to sell VDP and cross-media, and even changing your company’s name as it evolves from being viewed as a printer to a marketing services provider.

“If you say that you’re a printer, then you smell like a printer,” Schnoll quipped during the panel discussion.

Surprisingly, a panel composed of creatives Brenda Barozzi, Foote Cone & Belding; Harvey Hirsch, Media Consultants; and Bruce Kielar, Roberts Communications, questioned the importance of removing the word printing from your company’s name. “We consider our printers as partners,” Barozzi noted. “I don’t think anybody should be afraid of using that word.”

She also pointed out that 90 percent of variable data pieces she comes across would not pass advertising agency standards due to widows and orphans appearing within the variable text area. Another problem: few clients—except for the gaming industry—have the customer data to drive sophisticated personalized printing campaigns, Barozzi indicated.

When questioned about digital printers’ difficulty in getting production contacts within ad agencies to embrace variable data printing, Kielar and Barozzi suggested options such as bypassing them in favor of the account execs, offering to give presentations at art director and agency club events, as well as “walk the talk” by creating a personalized direct mail campaign targeted toward the agencies themselves.

Hirsch, on the other hand, contended that the traditional agency/client business model is dying. “Chasing agencies is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he mused. “Raise your sights; partner with some creative people and go directly after the end users.”

David Mastervich, account management sales specialist with the U.S. Postal Service, delivered one of the keynote addresses. He broke his talk into four segments: the relevancy of mail, what customers do with mail, “intelligent mail” barcode technology and address management service products.

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