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PRINT 05 Highlight: Versioned or fully variable, digital printing is building business

Press release from the issuing company

Variable data digital printing can help marketers get more punch from their promotions even if they don’t take full advantage of the opportunity to personalize each and every piece. In fact, the technology is finding a wide range of applications, and September’s PRINT 05 & CONVERTINGSM 05 will put these opportunities at center stage. Many VDP early adopters have reported their customers’ databases aren’t really ready yet to support per-piece personalization. But they’re discovering big opportunities in the technology all the same. For one thing, VDP makes versioning easier and more economical than ever. “Eighty-five to 90 percent of our digital printing is versioned rather than one-to-one variable data,” says Christopher Wells, president and chief executive Officer of LaVigne, Inc., in Worcester, MA. “That’s a big shift in the last four years,” he adds. “Everybody was talking about variable data, but nobody was really doing it. Then they realized they could get just as good response with versions.” In a versioning strategy, a single master document or template is adapted for a variety of users, each of whom uses a small number of copies of the same document, rather than an equal number of unique documents. Wells says the average production run in his shop is seven copies of a particular document version. That kind of variability isn’t possible with conventional litho equipment, and it offers the printer a more economically viable product as well. Wells describes a system in which end users -- for example, individual insurance agents or auto dealers -- access a website that displays the template version of a sales brochure. They can choose to vary certain text or images according to audience demographics, past purchases, or similar factors, and order varying runs of each version they need. “This is very scalable and very repeatable,” notes Wells, “whereas true variable data printing is not scalable at all.” Wells also observes that customers “like the results they get” with versioned mailings. “They’re two to three times higher than what they got without it.” Goodway Graphics of Burlington, MA implemented digital printing because the company saw that “all of our big press runs were going down to shorter runs,” says Rick Joly, vice president/sales and marketing. “It didn’t make sense to fire up the big equipment for only 3,000 or 5,000 copies. You can’t make any money just selling clicks,” Joly adds, referring to sheets exiting an offset press. “We saw an ability to add real value for our clients. They want to send out marketing material, but they know how prohibitively costly it can be.” The company is now running four black and white and two color digital systems, one of which is equipped with inline saddle stitching. Its largest ongoing variable data project is a contract with an advertising agency representing General Motors. The project offers GM auto dealers a chance to take part in promotions tied to customer uses of GM-affinity credit cards. When GM offers a special incentive, dealers can visit a website and “build” customized post cards from templates, using data about their own customers. Joly says a typical initiative under this program involved about 800 dealers who collectively order roughly 500,000 post cards. A recent report from TrendWatch Graphic Arts noted that 29 percent of commercial printers as a whole produce some sort of VDP jobs in-house. But using this technology to boost profits doesn’t necessarily mean using it only on fully variable jobs. Helping printers find opportunities like versioning is one of the missions of PRINT 05 & CONVERTING 05. The show, the world’s largest industry exhibition this year, will take place on September 9-15 at the McCormick Place Complex. Complete show information, online registration and hotel options are available at www.print05.com.