Despite Objections, Digital Printing on the Upswing

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NEW ORLEANS -- Despite some lingering customer objections and aversions, digital printing has a great future, speakers at a seminar at the DMA's fall conference said yesterday.

The Thought Leaders Seminars, sponsored by Xerox, offered an overview of the state of digital printing from creative directors at ad agencies, mail suppliers and direct mail companies.

Some of the objections include the fact that the quality isn't good enough, run lengths are too long to be economical on digital presses and the available paper is too limited. Some panelists and audience members also said mail pieces oftentimes have rubber marks and other scratches after going through U.S. Postal Service machines.

Raymond Allston, senior vice president and creative director at Campbell-Ewald Direct, said that while he regularly recommends digital printing to his clients, there is still some resistance.

Their No. 1 concern? "Price," he said.

Allston said some companies are turned off because digital printing doesn't always allow companies to get the exact color of their logos correct. He also spoke about some of the positive aspects of digital printing. For example, it allows users to segment copy on the fly, easily deliver multiple offer tests and easily make revisions to files. He also said customers are more likely to show interest if he can show them successful case studies or if they perform a test before signing up.

Some direct marketers are showing real interest in digital printing. Suzanne Morgan, president/founder of Print Buyers, offered results from a recent survey her company conducted. According to the study, 36 percent of responding print buyers said their use of digital color laser print increased significantly, while 39 percent said it has increased somewhat.

A user of digital printing also offered a success story. Michael Panaggio, CEO of Direct Mail Express, gave an overview of a series of automated retention programs his company regularly does using digital print. A reminder letter, for example, sent to current customers about getting service on their automobiles had an average response rate of 53.1 percent, and the average repair order was $16.30.

Lawrence Kimmel, chairman/CEO of Grey Direct, said the more personalized the campaign is, the better.

"Mass marketing is clinically dead," he said. "The tipping point has arrived. It's micromarketing time."

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