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.
To address security concerns when developing a variable data proposal, Brad Lena, PIA/GATF senior technical consultant, suggested asking the prospect or client for just their database field headers, not any actual data. He also noted that customers will nickel and dime suppliers on printing costs, but are used to paying for data services and should be charged accordingly.
Less often yields more in personalized marketing, according to Arthur Middleton Hughes, vice president of KnowledgeBase Marketing, Richardson, TX. “E-mail blasts ruin the marketing channel because if people opt out, you can’t contact them anymore. Sending too many e-mails (in one week or month) depresses response rates,” he said in a presentation on database marketing.
Offering multiple choices or options—such as destinations for a family vacation—in a promotional offer kills response rates, Hughes continued. “Send one choice at a time and use different messages for other choices.”
Frank McPherson, president of Custom Data Imaging in Markham, Ontario, offered an intriguing suggestion for how to more efficiently produce some variable printing jobs. “We have product lines that are strictly done by the data department with no one from graphics or prepress getting involved. One of our data people runs the press for that work,” he revealed. “We’ve saved 8,000 to 10,000 man hours a year doing work that way.”
It’s actually a less stressful way for data people to work because it eliminates interactions that can lead to conflict, McPherson said. Typically these are straightforward jobs that may have complex data requirements, but a simple design. “We were able to make that change about three years ago because the software and equipment have gotten better,” he noted.
Attendees were also briefed on the findings of an update to a PIA/GATF Digital Printing Council research study, titled “Digital Printing and Survivability in the U.S. Postal System.” Two of the more striking findings were that the postal location where a mailing was processed turned out to be a bigger variable in the amount of damage done to postcards than the printing press used, and that offset printing didn’t fair significantly better in surviving the mail stream.
Joe Marin, PIA/GATF senior analyst, digital technology, said each site uses the same equipment, so the variability in mail handling comes down to the staff and the quality of their maintenance and calibration of that equipment. He noted that scuffing was worst in two zones of the sample postcard (non-address side) because those areas came into contact with belts on the Delivery Bar Code Sorter machines.
Marin said he also learned that recycled stocks can create problems for processing by the Advanced Facer Canceler System, which checks for postage indicia and applies a postmark, because stamps get into the recycled pulp slurry and cause the entire piece to exhibit the fluorescence it uses to identify the postage. He concluded by noting that planning is underway to test the effects of applying a coating to mailed pieces.
HP Looks to Drive More Digital Printing
SAN DIEGO—In early October, Hewlett-Packard hosted 90-plus international analysts and journalists for a leadership conference at its California operations. Keynote addresses by HP executives were followed by breakout sessions with customers and tours of the Interactive Experience Center and R&D lab at the company’s San Diego campus that’s home to 2,400 employees.
In his opening remarks, a decidedly upbeat Vyomesh Yoshi, executive vice president, HP Imaging and Printing Group, was the first of several company execs to acknowledge the challenge of today’s economy. Yoshi’s thesis was that the changes occurring today are all about the explosion of content across a variety of communication methods, from social networking on the Internet and communication via handheld devices to traditional print. “We have to get ahead of the curve and drive more printing,” he said.
To that end, HP’s Consumer Group announced partnerships with My-Space.com and MTV that are intended to not only make it easier to print from those Websites, but also provide a richer print experience for users. The company also highlighted its green initiatives across all business segments.
HP Graphics Solutions Business (GSB) leaders focused on the company’s commitment to customer success by offering an aggressively expanded portfolio of products and solutions, as well as a newly expanded business development program for wide-format printing customers.
‘Best Digital Launch Ever’
In his keynote, Michael Hoffmann, senior vice president and general manager, GSB, pointed out that the business unit now offers printing solutions from “postage stamps to building wraps.” He also reported $230 million in sales and 6,046 qualified leads from Drupa 2008. As a result, the company has had one of its more successful digital press launches ever with the HP Indigo 7000, installing more than 100 units worldwide since the show.
GSB executives also discussed the market opportunity that will result from the planned 2009 release of the HP Ink-jet Web Press. This machine represents a new digital printing platform for the company and is based on its Scalable Printing Technology that enables 41/4? ink-jet printheads to be configured in combinations and arrangements to meet specific production needs. Now back running in the R&D lab since Drupa, the press is targeted at direct mail, transactional and transpromotional printing, as well as book and newspaper publishing.
O’Neil Data Systems, based in Los Angeles, is scheduled to begin beta testing an HP Ink-jet Web Press (30? configuration) in December.
On the wide-format ink-jet front, HP said it is on track to begin selling the new HP Designjet L65500 printer in January. It features new HP Latex inks that are claimed to provide many of the benefits of solvent-ink technology, but emit low levels of VOCs, are not classified as hazardous waste and are non-flammable/non-combustible.
Xerox Shows Its ‘New Business Of Printing’
ROCHESTER, NY—Following on the heels of Drupa in Germany, and leading up to what would be the first U.S. showing of several new products at Graph Expo, Xerox held a press and analyst day here in late September.
The meeting kicked off with a presentation by Valerie Blauvelt, vice president of marketing for Xerox’s Production Systems Group (PSG). Referencing a Pira International study, she valued the global digital printing market for print providers at $68 billion in 2007, with expectations that it will double by 2012. The $580 million digital printing market for packaging is expected to reach $6 billion by 2015. Blauvelt also cited an InfoTrends study that projects the specialty photo printing market to grow at an annual rate of 24.5 percent through 2012 to $800 million.
The amount of color pages printed digitally is exploding, she added, noting that 40 billion color pages were printed on Xerox devices last year. Some of this can be attributed to the more than 2,000 Xerox iGen3 digital color presses installed worldwide, including 275 users that have installed two or more iGen3s to meet their increased demand.
First shown at Drupa, the new Xerox iGen4 digital production press features more than 400 new parts, according to Jeff Perine, manager of iGen product marketing, PSG. With FreeFlow Process Manager software to automate job submission, the iGen4 also incorporates a patented auto density control system; auto carrier dispense for more consistent tints and lifelike flesh tones and skies; an in-line spectrophotometer; high-definition linearization; advanced color profiling; as well as PANTONE and custom spot color matching.
Kevin Horey, manager of color solutions product marketing, PSG, highlighted Xerox’s new mid-production, smaller footprint, Xerox 700 (70 ppm) digital color press. With a list price under $100,000, it’s targeted toward smaller printers and those first getting into digital printing. He also discussed the DocuColor 5000AP (50 ppm), which is geared toward users printing on a lot of oversized, heavyweight and coated stocks.
FreeFlow Express to Print is a new workflow solution especially designed for the light production market, reported Deb Cantabene, vice president of workflow marketing. Fully featured, but at under a $5,000 price point, it incorporates a user-friendly interface, simple job ticketing and automatic PDF conversion. More than 50 templates are also included.
For one-to-one marketing campaigns, XMPie Vice President of Marketing Karin Stroh discussed cross-media campaigns. She cited XMPie’s seamless database connectivity via ADOR technology to all media channels, synchronization of new media via interactive content points, tight integration with Adobe Creative Suite tools for design freedom and a wide choice of output formats.
The event concluded with an update on Xerox’s numerous business development tools, including ProfitAccelerator and fee-based, New Business of Printing business development services offered by Xerox and external consultants. Gina Testa, vice president of channel and business development, PSG, highlighted new offerings, including the ProfitQuick value-based pricing guide with pricing worksheets designed to reinforce best practices, the ProfitQuick Investment Planner for cost-justifying complete print solutions, The Print Council “Why Print” kit, and new application development resources for entering the digital photo book market.
Universal Remote Control for Proofing
MINNEAPOLIS—For printers whose clients demand exact color—on every sheet, on every press, every time—many of the color management systems on the market today may not be good enough. That was the core message presented to a small group of printing industry journalists who were invited to a recent press conference hosted by CGS Publishing Technologies International at its U.S. headquarters here.
“Ninety-five percent of printers use color management,” asserted Trevor Haworth, CGS president and CEO. “Our product, ORIS Hybrid Proofing, is next generation technology…that provides a color-managed workflow, from creative all the way to delivery of the final product.”
Haworth and his fellow CGS execs previewed announcements the company planned to make at Graph Expo, including the debut of ORIS Hybrid Proofing Web—an Internet-enabled version of its remote (soft and hard copy) proofing technology. The new user interface integrates ORIS Color Tuner, Soft Proof and Certified Proof to enable users to manage and monitor global remote proofing implementations with closed-loop color control.
Two other announcments were made: A new business partnership with Xerox was formed, and ORIS PearlPROOF, a non-optically brightened glossy proofing paper, would debut at Graph Expo. The ORIS product line was also detailed in the pre-show briefing, including color contract proofing products (Hybrid Proofing, Color Tuner and Soft Proof), color management tools (Press Matcher and Ink Saver), and color process control offerings (Certified Proof, Certified Press and Cert fied Monitor).
Attendees were taken for an on-site demo at The Bureau, a Minneapolis printer that offers offset and digital printing via a variety of presses. ORIS Color Tuner, Press Matcher and Certified Proof were demonstrated, showing exact color matches on several proofs printed via Xerox, Epson and other devices.
“Many printers are satisfied with color that is ‘just OK.’ Accepting OK color is not good enough for us,” noted Patrick Stuart, The Bureau’s general manager. “We wanted to hit GRACoL (standards) and needed a color management/proofing solution that we could trust. ORIS is that technology.”
ROCHESTER, NY—PODi, the Digital Printing Initiative, has tapped a printer/customer duo to provide a keynote address at its 2009 AppForum, set for January 19 to 21 in Las Vegas at the Rio Hotel & Casino. Robert Durham, president/CEO of HKM Direct Market Communications, and Mike Lyman, manager of online communications at YRC Worldwide, will detail how they developed a global Web-to-print solution for the large transportation services company. The 1,800-user system is being expanded for use by 6,000+ people worldwide.
LONG BEACH, CA—Epson America has launched myEpsonPrinter.com as a public beta site to provide an online resource for businesses that use Epson Stylus Pro x880 series or Stylus Pro GS6000 printers. It enables owners to automatically track consumable usage and costs, print job info, access tech support and more.
ROCHESTER, NY—To open new lines of communication with customers and other interested parties, Kodak has initiated a new Twitter feed that enables users to send short messages in real time, which Kodak initially plans to focus on digital printing topics. Registering at Twitter.com/- KodakIDigPrint is required.