Special report: Printing and pre-press: TTC’s backlit cards presented printing challenge

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.

BBDO’s Cathmoir credits printer BTB/Bowne’s in-house film department with making the agency’s vision a reality

By Gord Cathmoir, Director of Print Services, BBDO

A series of backlit interior transit cards for the Toronto Transit Commission required numerous last-minute adjustments to ensure the end product met the art director’s vision, says Gord Cathmoir, director of print services at bbdo, the agency that handled the project.

The campaign, in which ttc employees were lauded for their commitment to making Toronto a better place to live, used sepia tones to give the advertising a warm, almost sentimental feel.

Cathmoir says the challenge was to ensure the finished product reproduced faithfully once backlit.

‘We didn’t want a big color shift,’ he says. ‘And a sepia tone tends to accent that.’

Cathmoir credits the printer, Toronto-based BTB/Bowne, and its in-house film department, with making the agency’s vision a reality.

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

A. It’s the typical thing: quality, service and price.

In terms of quality, you want them to be able to do a good range of work, because not everything you run is an annual report.

In terms of service, the last thing you want to hear from them is that they are too busy and they can’t put your job on.

One of the things we can offer our clients, hopefully, is enough buying power that when we need something done, we can get it done.

And that sometimes means [our printers] have to be creative in their scheduling.

Q. What services are essential when you are making that choice?

A. Film and pre-press, as well as some bindery. It’s great when you can get it bound in-house and there’s not the extra step involved of sending it out to the bindery.

Obviously, there are projects where you have to, because the job is very complicated. At that point, it’s better to send it out to a specialty house.

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

A. I’m looking for somene who has come up through the ranks, who isn’t just an order-taker, who actually brings something to the table when we are discussing a project.

The print rep that I like has a graphics arts background, and they have come up through co-ordinating, or maybe through estimating.

There are a lot of print reps out there who have come out of nowhere. They are just salesmen.

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

A. We generally use a three-quote system. Some printers we deal with for specific things, since they have proven themselves to have the lowest prices. But almost 90% of the projects are quoted out.

It’s tough to [use only one supplier] because clients are very cost-conscious these days, and a lot of times are getting their own quotes themselves.

It puts a big demand on getting the correct price, while maintaining the quality and service that is expected of an agency.

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. On certain projects, the printer will do our film for us, but on most projects, we use a film house.

It really depends on the project.

If I have a film house that works well with the printer, I will feel very comfortable in letting them work together.

Q. Do your printers have to have finishing capabilities?

A. I would hope that they would have some bindery [equipment] there because there are a lot of projects that require quick turnarounds, and if they have a stitcher and a folder, that’s great. We can put together a few books and away we go.

But I don’t expect any printer is going to have full bindery capability.

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

A. In terms of how the artwork is prepared, now it’s all computerized.

You are not dealing with artboards any more, you are dealing with the disk, so there is that whole new dimension.

Timelines are quicker now. It’s always been a rush, but now we are doing things overnight or in a day, as opposed to a few days.

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

A. Weekends are now added into workback schedules and that wasn’t the case before. Now it’s more common than not.

In terms of preproduction meetings, [the printer is] always there. It’s almost like a core group that gets together.

To us, that’s nothing new, we always try to bring people in, even the client.

So the client understands, when we need approvals, it might be late at night and they have to make themselves available. Because everything is so rushed.

You’ve got to look ahead and see that there isn’t going to be anything that’s going to be a problem later on.