As we near drupa 2016, I had an opportunity to interview Cheryl Kahanec, Earth Color’s EVP Digital, about what she was looking forward to most. Her answer was unequivocal: high-speed inkjet. Why? Not just because drupa offers the opportunity to see so much technology in action, but because it provides an opportunity to take a holistic view of the workflow surrounding high-speed inkjet, which Kahanec says will change everything.
Sure, inkjet presses bring the much anticipated speed, but Kahanec says that with those volumes come changes in the roles and responsibilities between the agency, the data team, the printer, and creative team. Drupa gives printers the opportunity to learn more about exactly how it will change the entire workflow and what everyone’s new roles will be.
Here is an excerpt from that interview revolving around how those roles will change and why.
Heidi TW: What are some of the fundamental changes you see occurring with high-speed inkjet?
Kahanec: When personalizing using toner-based devices, most of us are used to dealing with tens of thousands of personalized pieces. With high-speed inkjet, we are looking at pieces in the millions. Whether it’s a brand new file or components of the file, every image is a brand new image. Printing five million unique pages is totally different than imaging five million of single page. At drupa, we will get to explore just how that will affect the workflow and everyone alone the process.
Heidi TW: Can you explain?
Kahanec: If you create a workflow diagram of a generic direct mail piece, it’s a uniform cycle. You still come up with a strategy, lay out the message, including any versions, determine who your target audience(s) will be, and send it out for production and mailing. With a dynamic program, however, you are now looking at multiple, dozens, or even hundreds of base messages, each layered with personalization that speaks to that person individually. You may want the people who have already purchased from us to get message one, but perhaps women respond differently than men, so you want to talk to men and women separately. Messaging may be age-based too. You may want to refine the targeting with different messages for each age group, as well as gender. If there are other relevant variables, you can continue to refine the message even further.
Heidi TW: How does this change relationship between the printer and client?
Kahanec: With this level of targeting, we are asking whole new sets of questions. If you want to talk to women differently than men, do you have a gender indicator in your data? If not, how could we do that? Do we need to ask a data company to genderize the list? How many images do we have? Do we pull from the database? Is it based on gender? What have the targeted recipients previously purchased? Are those images coming from a different database? Is that database somewhere else within the company? How are you going to track recipients’ response or nonresponse? Now we’re not just managing the data for mailing. We’re managing data coming out of the campaign to help refine future programs. This puts the relationship with the client at the beginning of the conversation rather than at the end. We need to be part of the strategic group that is designing the process from the beginning.
Heidi TW: What else changes?
Kahanec: Proofing! Let’s say you have 732 images. The creative team is used to seeing all of the images used in a campaign. But with this many images in use, they might be able to see them on screen (if they have that kind of time), but they aren’t going to see every page or layout. Instead, teams will get a data layout, which shows that the logic that changes the image works. They will see the business logic rules. They will see that each person got what they were supposed to get in that page. This is what will be proofed, not hard copies of each individual layout. That will that happen electronically. When does your team see the physical proof? When you open the mailbox. Your live proof will be in the mail.
High-speed inkjet opens a world of new possibilities, and it requires a completely different process that affects everyone along the chain. We’re doing to learn about more details at drupa. Not just the workflow and the production process, but the integration and how to tie all of these things together. We are going to learn more about how we, as the printer, fit into that process and what everyone’s new roles and responsibilities will be.
What changes do you see occurring with high-speed inkjet? How do you anticipate it impacting the printer’s relationship with the client?