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SPECIAL REPORT VARIABLE DATA PRINTING -- 1-to-1 Drives Campaigns

October 2005
Robin Williamson might have needed to get past some old preconceptions, but now she is completely on board with the art of variable data printing (VDP).

It was just three or four years ago when Williamson—the director of print for the Dallas office of Rapp Collins, one of the largest direct marketing agencies in the world—was up to her eyes in conventional printing. But a creative director from the agency had just returned from a digital conference in Arizona, raving about the wonders of digital printing incorporating personalization.

Williamson, a seven-year veteran of the company, was a little skeptical. But given what she'd heard about how variable data had made inroads for the point-of-purchase environment, her curiosity was also piqued.

"Being the print snob that I was at the time, I said, 'Hey, come on now, they're just copy machines,' " Williamson recalls.

But before she could attend the next conference on the subject, Rapp Collins secured an assignment for a VDP-driven campaign. So Williamson spent the next six months immersing herself in all aspects of variable data printing.

"I just fell in love with VDP and think it's awesome," Williamson says. "Especially for a marketing agency like ours, it's such an incredible tool. Now I spend about 75 percent of my time working on this."

Hitching a Ride to VDP

Rapp Collins, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this year by being ranked No. 1 for direct marketing agencies by Ad Age magazine, came into its own on the VDP landscape two years ago when it landed a critical automotive account. The result was a brilliant one-to-one marketing campaign that relied on a deep level of personal information. Thus, the agency not only put its creative skills to the test, it made Rapp Collins develop talented data engineers.

The results have been astounding, according to Williamson. This campaign mails on a monthly basis and, each month, Rapp Collins pores over the sales analysis. The agency has helped its auto client exceed a very aggressive ROI by almost 100 percentage points. Rapp Collins has created similar VDP programs with other clients, both in the automotive and entertainment industries.

While Williamson did not have any hard figures, other experts note that a typical response rate is 3 percent to 5 percent for a for a static direct mail piece with little to no personalization. By contrast, response rates of 20 percent to 25 percent have been realized from VDP-based programs.
 

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