Going beyond personalization

Steve Murray would be the first to admit it. Creative director with Vickers & Benson Direct & Interactive (VBDI) and the man behind 'It's All In the Details,' an RSVP-award winning direct mail campaign for the Bank of Montreal, Murray says...

Steve Murray would be the first to admit it.

Creative director with Vickers & Benson Direct & Interactive (VBDI) and the man behind ‘It’s All In the Details,’ an RSVP-award winning direct mail campaign for the Bank of Montreal, Murray says his team’s hard work would have been for naught if the printing job itself hadn’t been up to snuff.

‘Printing and production is one of the most important [components], not just of direct mail, but of brand equity, and that brand equity has to be seen right through to the production values,’ Murray says. ‘That’s the first thing the recipient sees.’

The bank wanted to pitch its purchasing solutions card – a kind of hyper-intelligent credit card system – using a two-tiered approach. Corporate CEOs and financial officers received one package, and their purchasing managers received another. But they weren’t mere letters folded into an envelope.

‘We had to break through,’ says account director Deni Baschiera. ‘You are lucky when secretaries don’t screen out your direct mail. Our way was to make it big.’

How big? Try an embossed three-dimensional package that was 24 inches high by 9 inches wide and 1.5 inches thick. The package for senior executives contained a pocket organizer, as well as information about the card. Purchasing officers received a less-elaborate package sans pocket organizer. But the personalized letter within pointed out that their CEO or CFO – who was named – had also received a package. The letter was designed to prompt the purchasing officer into action once he or she realized his or her superior was also on the list.

‘We were targeting Fortune 500 firms and they don’t have lots of time to sift through the mail,’ says Murray. ‘We had to capture their attention immediately and help them cut through the clutter. High-quality production has a role in that, just as creative does.’

Given the success of the campaign, it appears those two elements came together. The campaign was so effective at generating leads, says Murray, that the agency had to suspend the mailings, since the bank’s sales team couldn’t keep up with requests to discuss the purchasing solution.

‘The work we produce has to walk the walk,’ says Baschiera. ‘When you mail something to a CFO, you want to make sure you get their attention and live up to your own brand positioning.’

Among the tools helping agencies and clients cut through the clutter is the latest wave of commercial printing technology.

Printers such as St. Joseph Direct, Quebecor and Transcontinental Printing are on the cutting edge of the trade.

‘We’ve got what we call creative engineering, because our customers are pushing for it,’ says Alec Couckuyt, vice-president of Transcontinental’s direct marketing group in Toronto. ‘They don’t want to lose time with hand-offs.’

Couckuyt says printing technology today goes beyond mere personalization. For example, Transcontinental’s Yorkville Printing division, which handled the Details campaign, can change name and address information at ‘Web-press speed.’

‘It’s what we call ‘Print for One,” he says. ‘We do that by putting portable ink-jet heads on the presses. This enables us to print any combination of material at Web-press speed.’

With ink-jet printing, a computer-controlled array of ink nozzles produces images on a moving sheet or web of paper. In the continuous approach, electronic deflectors position the drops. Another method spits out the ink only as it is needed. Simple ink jet printers are used routinely to print variable information such as mailing labels, and can be installed on the end of a conventional printing press or bindery line.

‘Opportunities are limited only by a physical area on a piece of paper,’ says Couckuyt. ‘But it’s within that area where true personalization can occur.’ As an example, he mentions special discounts on specific products, different coupons for different locations and customized letters for premium customers.

‘And all of this personalization can be done during the web print process. That’s an advantage that not only optimizes the cost of personalization but also the time it takes to complete the project.’

At St. Joseph Direct in Concord, Ont., the printer offers full web heat-set printing, combined with high-resolution (240 by 240 dot-per-inch) imaging, all funneled through its extensive in-line finishing system.

Dubbed ‘The Intelligent Self-Mailer,’ one such offering utilizes a specialized web press to glue, perforate, die cut, plow fold, rotary cut, slit, and do scratch-and-win or scratch-and-sniff in a single pass. Daimler Chrysler uses the system to print personalized letters to its customers, prompting them to get their cars serviced.

‘The entire program was driven by an elaborate database,’ explains Christian Montini, senior sales manager for St. Joseph Direct. ‘Through the use of in-line finishing and imaging, we were able to deliver at the end of the press a complete mailer, in postal sequence, ready for the post office. It took no more than 48 hours to complete, and reduced our customer’s traditional budget by 35%.’

That’s important, because these campaigns can often take up to three weeks using conventional printing technology. And as Montini points out, the traditional approach of carrier envelope, image letter and coupon doesn’t really grab their attention the way it used to.

Although Montini says he’s not privy to the campaign’s results, DaimlerChrysler has since repeated the program. ‘We think they’ve enjoyed better-than-historical results,’ he says.

Ed Strapagiel, senior vice-president with Kubas Consultants in Toronto, says printing today is as much about the integration of data as it is about producing a good-looking piece.

‘For example, at one time when you wanted to do direct mail, you’d have to hand over a whole bunch of sticky labels to get a mailing done,’ he says. ‘These days you just e-mail over a file. Printing tech has kept up with that but, more importantly, it’s allowed the use of these database marketing techniques to be really well applied and practised (see sidebar p. D12).’

Strapagiel says there are really two areas where printing has advanced in the last couple of years.

‘One is personalization, but that goes beyond simply printing a name and address on a piece of paper. It gets into putting the name of the target in several places,’ he says. ‘It will involve variable text, where a group of recipients gets paragraph 2-B instead of 2-A, for example.

‘It also involves controlling some of the inclusions in a direct mail piece. It involves all sorts of ways to more finely target sub-segments of direct mail. That is something that printing technology allows people to do.

‘All these things are a nickel here and a dime there,’ Strapagiel continues, ‘but they really add up. For the people in the printing industry, their big decisions are going to be what equipment they should get.’ ‘They have to be very careful about that, because the cost of it, and the cost of running it, is skyrocketing.

‘Otherwise, it’s hard to sit here and say they should be doing this or that, because technology is changing so rapidly.’

Also in this report:

* Faster, better, smarter and cheaper: The marriage of database marketing and printing technology has put more control in the hands of the client p.D12

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.