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March 2001
Val DiGiacinto is spreading the message of variable data printing and one-to-one marketing. And his clients are heeding his call.


If you build it, they will come. It is the now-famous phrase uttered in the movie "Field of Dreams." It also aptly describes the transformation that the New York City-based The Ace Group underwent in the 1980s when it changed its core business from typography to digital prepress. It continues to hold true today as The Ace Group plans its next metamorphosis into the world of digital and variable-data printing.

"We are now a commercial prepress company that does digital printing," explains Val DiGiacinto, vice president of technical sales and a leader of the revolution occurring at The Ace Group. "The digital printing and e-commerce sides of our operation are where we really see the future and the growth of our business," he predicts.

But, DiGiacinto doesn't need a crystal ball in order to speculate on where the industry is headed. He has hard numbers to back up his predictions. In 1999, 15 to 20 percent of the work The Ace Group did was variable-data printing. This year, they have seen that number increase to between 50 and 60 percent.

"It's an area in which we really see potential for growth," he discloses. "We believe that is where the future of this business is moving."

In part, the move toward variable-data printing has increased as the technology has come of age. "The technology has migrated to the point where, as a salesperson, I no longer have to make excuses for digital printing," he says. "The technology has improved to the level where it satisfies the needs of our clients—even to the point that it's not just a 'good-enough technology.' "

DiGiacinto admits that The Ace Group's move into the digital printing market in the 1980s was viewed by some as a risk. But it's a risk that paid off for The Ace Group, an Agfa Chromapress (now Xeikon) user. "We're ahead of the digital printing and the variable-data learning curve because we got into it so early."

The improvements in digital printing technology have also influenced the complexity of the variable-data jobs The Ace Group now prints, he adds. It is no longer just personalized post cards for direct mail. The Ace Group is now producing very individualized brochures and marketing materials. For example, one of their clients—a college—is using variable-data printing to target prospective students individually based on their specific interests. When students make a request for an information packet from the college, they no longer receive the run-of-the-mill general college admissions and programs information.

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