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Diversification Opportunities -- Getting Creative, By Design

January 2004
By Erik Cagle

Senior Editor

Early on it was apparent to LAgraphico that, when it came to the creative and conceptual link in the print production chain, burning the midnight oil was best left to Midnight Oil Creative.

The Burbank, CA-based sheetfed printer, with roots tracing back 25 years to L.A. Filmco and A&L Graphico, was founded by Al Shapiro—who started out as a print broker—and his wife Liz. He migrated into color separation services and gradually added sheetfed presses to service the needs of the entertainment, advertising and promotional businesses.

"We do a lot of work for Hollywood movie studios," states Peter Szillies, vice president of sales and marketing, who boasts a lengthy resumé in the creative advertising world. "As a full-service provider we deliver a complete campaign, in all of its different forms, to our clients.

"We had partnerships with creative entities and used them as subcontractors," he adds. "But, over a period of time, it became clear that we had to capture clients early on. This provides the opportunity to offer them integrated services and also to overcome being viewed as just a common print producer. There's always the different world between printing—putting ink on paper—and what the creative community comes up with."

Burning the Midnight Oil

The result was Midnight Oil Creative, a standalone company under the LAgraphico umbrella. This solution offers creative concepts for the entertainment industry and various other corporate clients, as well as creative production for creative directors and departments of agencies to deliver their concepts into a print production environment.

Szillies has watched as other printers have ventured into the creative world, only to be unable to bridge the mentality from the manufacturing standpoint to creative—effectively trying to use a "lunch pail" mentality in an environment more suited to paint and canvass.

"By entering the creative arena, we can offer clients a more elegant solution," Szillies explains. "Now that we have a comprehensive creative entity, we can—right from the beginning—consult with them to show which direction a creative project should take to most effectively integrate into the back end. That's our value-added proposition."

LAgraphico can now avoid the pitfalls of poor integration. When the printer settled into its new facility more than six months ago, Midnight Oil Creative was situated in a separate part of the building, detached from the print component. Midnight Oil began slowly, with one creative director and one graphic designer. There are now five full-time employees at Midnight Oil, a figure that occasionally swells to 10. The entire team is a collection of outside hired guns: conceptually gifted artists. The financial outlay was less than the purchase of a basic sheetfed press, Szillies points out.

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