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November 2008

Converge Conference Seeks Greater Relevance

PHOENIX—Dealing with change is often a subject addressed in sessions at industry conferences. It was the event itself that changed, though, in the case of PIA/GATF’s recent “Converge Conference: Variable Data, Web Services and Cross-Media.”

The association previously held two separate yearly meetings—one focusing on workflow and the other on variable data/personalization. In this case, one plus one didn’t even add up to two, as the total attendance was less than at one of the solo 2007 conferences. Economic conditions, confusion created by the new name and the change in scheduling were suggested as possible factors.

Still, positive feedback about the content from attendees reinforced the association’s decision to move forward with another meeting next year. It has been scheduled for November 9 to 11, 2009, in Orlando. Converge was “a great beginning considering the tough economic climate,” said Jim Workman, PIA/GATF’s vice president of training.

Becoming a marketing services provider (MSP), issues with personalized URLs (PURLs), database concerns and much more were covered in the four keynotes addresses and nearly 40 sessions. 

Data-driven marketing presents multiple challenges, pointed out Jack Neary, manager of IT strategy and design at Communicorp, a subsidiary of Aflac Inc., based in Columbus, GA. Names in databases are often entered in all caps, for example, but doing a simple conversion will result in MCMAHON becoming Mcmahon and the piece loses it personal touch, he offered as an example.

PURL: Personalization, Security Concerns

Even if personalization is done properly, “recipients should be given an alternative way of contacting you with a PURL campaign because they may not be comfortable typing in personal information,” he further advised. It is also possible to tailor messages to recipients in a more subtle, yet still effective, way to avoid revealing how much a marketer knows about its customers.

Neary also cautioned that sending e-mails spread out over time doesn’t guarantee people won’t still hit the server in clumps because of viewing patterns, so it’s critical to have a server with adequate bandwidth and throughput. “You only get one chance of the recipient typing in a PURL,” he continued.

Security is another factor to consider with PURLs, said Scott Dubois, vice president of cross-media services and marketing at Reynolds DeWalt in New Bedford, MA. Recipients potentially can figure out the pattern and then access other people’s landing pages if some kind of security scheme isn’t used in place of names in a PURL. Web addresses on printed pieces should be hidden from view when sent through the mail stream, he added.

 

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