Targeted campaigns hit the mark for Image Options and its customers
Variable data printing (VDP) is well established in small format printing, due in large part to the success of HP Indigo digital presses. When Tim Bennett, the CEO of Image Options, learned that HP was investigating bringing VDP to large-format printing, with HP SmartStream Designer, he saw it as an ideal way to advance his customers' campaigns to the next level.
"Geo-demographic marketing in general is a big, pent-up need in large format," he says. "For the most part, our clients were using one-size-fits-all campaigns because it was too expensive to do versioning for things like test marketing and pricing versions. I was aware of the success of the HP Indigo SmartStream Designer VDP solution and when I heard it could support large format, it just seemed logical for us and our clients to start using it as soon as possible."
This kind of approach – of seeing beyond the boundaries of typical printing services – has been an effective success driver for Orange County, CA-based Image Options since it was founded in 1999. "A lot of people think we are in the printing business. But we're not; we're in the image communication business. If we can identify a solution for a problem, even if our customers don't realise it exists, then we have an opportunity to go to a client and offer them something of real value."
Both Image Options and its customers are seeing significant logistical benefits from its new large format VDP capabilities using HP SmartStream Designer. Image Options is enjoying a streamlined prepress process for existing jobs that used to involve setting up multiple files. Now, the designer builds a single template from their favourite Adobe InDesign software and, using the SmartStream Designer software plug-in, links it to a database to create the multiple versions, saving significant preparation time. VDP also makes packing and distribution go smoother. By tagging each print with its destination details and using the database to print labels for each individual box, it's fast and easy to ensure the right prints are shipped to the right branch. And, at the store, the manager can immediately verify the package contains the correct signage. "The benefit is across the board," says Bennett. "Time and cost savings, and also improved quality of service to our customers."
VDP serves up fast food chain's new posters in record time
Recently, using HP SmartStream Designer, Image Options produced backlit posters with 20 different price categories for 134 test stores in the Del Taco fast food chain. Each print had two price versions and all 134 stores had unique store ID numbers, to facilitate distribution. One price version was above $1 and the other below, which meant varying the dollar and cents symbols – a task easily handled by the software's rules feature, which created the logic to parse the data.
This was a regular job that Image Options had switched from manual versioning to VDP, resulting in 10 hours of layout/prepress time being cut to approximately two hours. The 1 x 1m (40 x 40in) posters were printed on the HP Scitex TJ8500 Printer equipped with an in-line cutter – creating a highly efficient job from layout all the way to distribution.
Similarly, Image Option's new large format VDP capabilities have transformed a quarterly employee recognition campaign for a major retailer. The first time this project was done using VDP; it involved 3600 banners of one size and 1500 of another, each of them unique. The changes included district, department name and dates, and there were seven different background themes. "We've produced similar campaigns for the past three years for the same retailer and it typically took in excess of 25 hours for layout and prepress," says Bennett. "Using HP SmartStream Designer the time required to reproduce the identical job is approximately three hours."
While Image Options is not currently charging a premium for VDP projects, being able to print versioned campaigns is nevertheless raising revenues, through larger orders from existing clients and by creating a new competitive edge that attracts new customers.
"This is an example of doing more for our customers. Being able to offer VDP makes us a better supplier, which means we'll get more sales. It's a way to take our clients to the next level, to keep them loyal and keep their business," says Bennett.
"Having VDP capabilities is game changing. HP is the first to go bigger than 11 x 17in (equivalent to A3 size), and being able to bring this to our market is a big asset," says Bennett.
Going the extra mile with VDP and HP
In addition to the kinds of campaigns described above, the HP SmartStream Designer solution can take targeted marketing campaigns far beyond the world of large format. By utilising various different mediums all designed from the same SmartStream Designer files, print service providers can create multi-application campaigns that include anything from large format posters for POS to flyers and postcards for loyalty and special offer campaigns.