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VDP Supplement: Casting a Vote for VDP

October 2006 BY CHRIS BAUER
FOR FRANK McPherson, taking on tough variable data printing (VDP) projects is nothing new.

“The first variable data printing job I did was in 1959,” McPherson, president and HDM (head decision maker) of Custom Data Imaging in Markham, Ontario, recalls.

“It was a calendar for a pharmacy that was sending out well wishes to some of its customers. We did it with Linotype slugs.”

McPherson started his career as a typesetter, and says he has held just about every position imaginable in the industry during his 48 years in the business. He also worked as a consultant for about a decade. But the frustrations that came along with consulting finally drove McPherson back into the print shop environment.

“I got fed up trying to salvage companies that were not very smart, not making money and going to the dogs,” McPherson notes. “My wife was in marketing and she was trying to get her suppliers to print VDP jobs and they said it couldn’t be done.”

So one weekend he gave her a book on VDP by RIT Professor Emeritus Frank Romano, which changed everything for the couple.

“I said, ‘you think I don’t know? It’s your suppliers that don’t know,’” McPherson recounts with his self-described Monte Python-esque sense of humor. “Next thing you know, we decided to open the business.”

The company started with just six employees and 1,000 square feet 71⁄2 years ago. Custom Data Imaging now boasts 24 employees housed within a 13,000-square-foot facility just outside Toronto. McPherson reports sales have grown about 25 percent per year.

Since he has been doing some sort of VDP work since the late 1950s, McPherson notes, with tongue-in-cheek, how much the technology and capabilities have changed since his early days dealing with personalization. And with all due respect to the pharmacy and its calendars, the importance of the work Custom Data Imaging now handles can be classified as having a global impact.

A few years ago Custom Data Imaging was approached by the provincial Conservative Party in Ontario to do some variable data work for an upcoming election. The provincial election campaign proved—even though the party didn’t win—to be quite successful in the geographic areas where the variable data mailers targeted.

Playing off of the success of the provincial campaign, Custom Data Imaging was contacted by the marketing agency for the federal Conservatives to put together a program for the national election in Canada that eventually saw Conservative Stephen Harper take over the prime minister post.

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