Cary Sherburne: Hi, I’m Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at, and I’m here with Rick Littrell, from Magicomm. And I understand you are the Chief Magic Officer.

Rick Littrell: Yes, Ma’am. Yes I am. Yes I am.

Cary: And marketing is magic.

Rick: Some of it is. It appears to be, absolutely.

Cary: But you know, we have really a lot of people in our industry are struggling, you know, with how do they really move into the new market realities. And maybe you can talk a little bit about, from your perspective as a marketing services company, what is sort of the people process and technology must have’s or infrastructure things that they have to have in place in order to be successful as a cross media provider?

Rick: I mean, cross media is like a, as I’ve told my friends and family, it’s a place where children should not go unchaperoned. There’s a lot of moving pieces…

Cary: They need adult supervision.

Rick: They need adult supervision on a regular basis. But, really what I find when you get into providing those services, the first thing that I think a lot of people forget about, they need somebody that can do the strategy because if you don’t have a strategy, it doesn’t matter about the rest of this stuff. And printers, they’re typically real good at the technology side…

Cary: And execution…

Rick: And they’ll do, you know, they’ll have the DDP, they’ll know how to do PERLS, they’ll do the print variable data and all of that, but then you start moving into the strategy and the return on investment and how do you monitor, that’s how I see a lot of them struggling with.

Cary: Well, you know, it’s interesting because a lot of companies that are trying to make this transition, I mean from my perspective, the first thing they have to do is have somebody that knows what marketing is, right. Because you can’t just sort of walk in one day to Procurement and say, “Hi, I’m your printer. Do you have any print for me today?” And then tomorrow walk down the hall to the marketing guy and say, “Oh, now I’m a marketing expert.”

Rick: Well you’re absolutely right. I mean, that goes back to somebody that understands strategy. So having some inherent marketing expertise in house, and it’s not… let’s say, it’s not core competence of the print industry. And I think they run into another issue that I’m beginning to realize it’s a bigger and bigger issue. They’ve been branding themselves for 20, 30 years or whatever, we’re a good print provider, we’re efficient, we’re high quality, on time. Now it’s a completely different paradigm and service that they’re offering and I’m beginning to think that providing it in house as opposed to starting a separate organization with somebody different answering the phone, somebody different selling, somebody different could be the best way for them to get in it because then you could brand right off the bat. This is a marketing organization. And then now, what that does though, it costs more because you’re duplicating probably a sales channel, someone at management level, but you can use all the billing and everything underneath it. You can use it the same. Even if it’s in the office next to them it allows that them that flexibility, I have a new business. But it’s not; we’re offering a new service. You know? It’s a different… a different mentality in positioning it in the market.

Cary: And that legacy print has to still fund… does this work?

Rick: You got to keep the cash cow going. So that’s very important for these printers and I’ve had experience now with a lot of the smaller franchises. They have a much bigger issue because they’re national, they have national campaigns and they’ve been quick printers copy shops. Now they want to get into variable data and they want to go… so they don’t typically have the creative connection or the strategy connection. I talked to a small organization out of Connecticut yesterday and he came to the decision… I had a talk with him about a year-and-a-half ago. And he started a whole new company, him and one person. Dad and the rest of the organization is running the print business and he’s marketing services. And they’re starting to make headway ‘cause right off the bat, we’re a marketing company.

Cary: Yeah. Yeah, well not having to change that mental model. You know, I talked to… but I think you can… you can also do it too dramatically. A couple of years ago I talked to a printer who said, “Now, I’m going to be a marketing service provider.” And he just sort of did it cold turkey. I mean, he had the skill sets and all of that, but the problem was, the majority of his client base were small agencies. And when he relaunched himself, they left because they said, wait a minute, you’re competing with use.

Rick: That’s right. I mean, that’s… that’s the whole paradigm because talking… you’ve got the enterprise, the agency, the manufacturer. Okay. I truly believe that’s collapsing.

Cary: Yeah, the agency is going to get smooshed in the process.

Rick: Well, one from both sides is going to come in now with the printer and it’s not clear to me, will the enterprise bring all of that in house for the… you know, it’s always… is it a core business or will they farm out to somebody that… the one-stop shopping concept. So you’ve got the strategy, you’ve got the print, you got… I just make one phone call. I write one PO. You know, I write one contract. So it’s… that whole moosh is happening. And I believe you all did a study a couple of years ago. Sixty percent of the printers bringing in creative, but typically those are layout. It’s not the strategy and the copywriting. And as you know, copywriting in a marketing environment is not an insignificant task. It’s market segment specific. So if you’re writing for a technology company versus a pharmaceutical it’s a whole different set of lingo.

Cary: Yeah. Plus you have to… plus you have to write differently if you’re writing for a variable piece versus a static piece.

Rick: Absolutely. And you know that layering of messaging and you know going beyond “Hi Cary…” And which I mean a lot of the pieces we worked on, we’ll change paragraphs and headlines, you’ll never know it. And typically we do it on title or market segment. Those seem to be where you can have a more relevant conversation changing in those areas.

Cary: So really, you know, the ecosystem that you described with the enterprise, the agency and the printer, there’s actually a fourth component, which is the marketing services company like you. And you can’t print.

Rick: No.

Cary: And so… and you’re kind of an agency, but not really. And so, really they’re getting squished from all sides.

Rick: Well, this whole thing, and you brought up a good point, marketing agency versus ad agency. Now the ad agencies, they make their money on placing ads and that’s how they make their money and get their, you know, cost of materials on that. Then the marketing agency… and they clearly get involved with strategy. But now, they’re getting moved into a different world also because of what’s going on in the advertising market. You see now cable TV. There’s a prototype going on in New York right now in three million homes, targeting marketing.

Cary: To the set top. 

Rick: To the set top. I mean, that’s just incredible when you start backing away and say, okay, I got variable data print, I got customized PURLS, I’ve got, you know, I’ve got customized emails, now I can, as a marketing person, I can target a family both at a professional level and a personal level. And I can develop a database that gives me information on both sides of that equation. I think now, the privacy issue, which is gonna be a huge one.

Cary: I was just, you know, I was gonna bring that up because a couple of years ago I went to Ad Tech out in San Francisco and that was the big discussion there is how do the cable companies manage that data. They can’t… they can’t give that data to their partners. So the partners… the advertisers kind of have to trust that, you know, they specify here’s the segments we want to reach and here’s the, you know, and here’s the messages for those segments. And then they funnel it though their data processing because they cannot give that data back till the end. 

Rick: Well here it becomes even more complex because now you have typically that they charge you know, based on eyeballs or how many people ran the show. Now if you’re processing it, what’s the metrics? Because I have, dare we say “Two and a Half Men,” which if that comes back on, but you have it and it’s got 50 million people watch it, whatever the number is. But two million watch the Hertz ad, you know, and five million are watching another ad. Now how do you put that together to, one, determine costs and what you’re gonna price it at and how do you measure that’s valid? I think that whole metric… I read an article in Direct Marketing coming down here. Now the discussions are going on because they’re trying to figure, how do I charge now because you know everybody watching that show is not going to see that ad.

Cary: Right, right. But there’s more value because the people that are seeing it are relevant. I mean, I’m going to look at a Hertz ad and just go phht, because I happen to use a different company. So I don’t care about that, you know. But if I see a Kindle ad, I always watch them, you know because I love my Kindle and… and I love their ads.

Rick: That’s right. Well, that’s exactly right. So I mean, once you start segmenting at that level and then measuring it I think it’s gonna put a whole new dynamic in place. And how do you put a set of metrics on and determine win/loss.

Cary: Well, we live in interesting times.

Rick: I love it. Sometimes.