Special report: Printing and pre-press: Bayrachny: ‘We held our breath a lot on that one’

In our last report on printing, we asked the marketing executives at a a cross-section of printing companies what they were doing to distinguish their services from those of their competitors, and how they were communicating those differences to their customers.This...

In our last report on printing, we asked the marketing executives at a a cross-section of printing companies what they were doing to distinguish their services from those of their competitors, and how they were communicating those differences to their customers.

This time, we asked the men and women who buy printing Ñ the print production managers at advertising and direct marketing agencies Ñ on what basis they choose their printers, what services they consider essential and how they and their printers are managing to meet ever-tightening deadlines.

We also asked them to tell us about a project that pushed their printer to the limit.

One die-cut, pop-up brochure project took three days and nights to make-ready for the press.

By Larissa Bayrachny, Operations Manager, MacLaren Lintas Relationship Marketing Group

While she declines to mention the client by name, Larissa Bayrachny, operations manager at MacLaren Lintas Relationship Marketing Group, says a project she produced several years ago for a car maker was the most difficult project she has ever assigned a printer.

The project, a die-cut, pop-up brochure, was made doubly challenging because it was also folded and glued inline.

Bayrachny says it took three days and nights to make-ready for the press, largely due to the new technology at the time.

‘I remember pacing alongside the web, waiting for the web to snap,’ says Bayrachny, who adds she empathized with the frustration felt by pressmen.

‘We held our breath a lot on that one,’ she says.

But, she says, in the end, it worked.

Q. What are the most important considerations when choosing a printer?

A. In general, quality, service and price. More specifically, I choose printers who have a thorough knowledge of direct mail production.

Q. What services do you consider essential?

A. A good support team is an absolute must, as is desktop publishing capability for those last-minute changes.

Most of the printers I use [schedule shifts] around the clock, they work 24 hours. And a bindery inside always helps.

Q. What qualities do you look for in a printing rep?

A. Honesty, accessibility and dependability.

I respect a rep who knows his company’s limitations, and will tell me up-front that he may not be competitive on a particular job, or is incapable of producing the job, in some instances.

I am always leery of the rep who says he can do it all.

As well, they have to be thoroughly knowledgable, they have to know as much, if not more, about the equipment, because I am relying on their expertise.

Q. Do you routinely use the three-quote system, or do you have prearranged contracts with printers based on a volume discount?

A. We adhere to a three-quote system for all of our clients, in order to keep our suppliers on their toes, so to speak. Some clients also require this as part of their purchasing policy.

As well, it gives me an excellent way of evaluating potential suppliers.

Q. Are your printers handling your film for you, or are you still buying the majority of your film from an independent film house?

A. We buy our four-color separations independently or use the in-house capabilities of McGill Productions.

One- and two-color film, the simple work, is often done by the printer. And it’s usually due to time constraints. It’s a lot quicker that way.

A lot of printers don’t have the ability to do four-color separations internally, and the ones that do, are often not cost-competitive.

Q. Do your printers have to have finishing capabilities?

A. Yes. Virtually every piece I produce requires finishing of some sort, be it folding, or perfing, or gluing, so they have to have basic equipment.

I would not expect them to be able to do die-cutting, laminating, or conversion [creating an envelope out of a flat piece of paper] in-house.

Q. What do you think about the industry trend toward mega-mergers?

A. On the one hand, it allows for one-stop shopping, but, on the other hand, it makes the three-quote system difficult to maintain, particularly [among web printers.]

What I am also finding is that, due to the size of these organizations, certain things, such as estimating, take longer.

On the positive side, combined resources increases technological capabilities and makes Canada more competitive.

Q. How has the nature of your job changed over the past few years?

A. Our clients are demanding my up-front input in the strategy as well as planning of programs. Production is part of the whole management team and I have to be much more proactive than reactive. That’s the big change.

I remember years ago, I would be brought in at the tail end, after the creative had been presented, after it had been bought into by the client. That is where my role would start. But I am finding that it’s starting much earlier.

Clients are looking for a tighter, a more integrated approach.

If everybody is involved at the beginning, you minimize the changes at the end.

Often [the changes I suggest] have to do with formats.

A creative director will design a particular format and it needs to be laser-personalized. Changes could have to do with size or stock due to the limitations of the laser printers.

So there might be minor modifications.

Also, from an economic standpoint, sometimes if you cut off a quarter of an inch here and there, or eliminate one color, the savings for a client can be tremendous.

The trick is in realizing the creative director’s vision, but at the same time making it manageable in terms of the dollars that are going to be spent.

Q. How are you and your printer managing the ever decreasing time line issue?

A. What I am trying to do is preplan and organize programs well in advance.

Wherever possible, I give our printers plenty of time for estimating and printing. But it’s a give-and-take relationship.

There are going to be times when I say, ‘I need this printed overnight,’ and I am finding that most of my printers will accommodate me because I don’t cry wolf.

Production has always been the last link in the chain. And, yes, there are times when you are reactive as opposed to proactive. But I will sit down with our account management team and our creative team and try to gather up as much detail as possible.

Whatever questions they are unable to answer, I will make some educated assumptions. If it’s a question of paper stock, I will recommend a stock, so we have as detailed a framework as possible ahead of time.