Print Technology Depends on Audience With Web Cameras, Scanners

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Intelligencer Printing Co. will become the first printer to offer production for direct mail campaigns driven by Digimarc Corp.'s watermark technology after the two firms announced a deal this week.


The system embeds print pieces with an Internet link that can be scanned by computer owners with Web cameras or scanners. The URL code on the mail piece will bring the viewer to an Internet page containing one or several targeted offers.


Intelligencer, Lancaster, PA, said the technology would increase response rates for direct mail campaigns because it takes recipients directly to offers -- rather than making consumers take a URL address from a mail piece, key it in and look for promotions or products at the Web site.


Additionally, a marketer could include text on the mail pieces urging recipients to hold on to the paper for re-scanning. This will allow marketers to change the Web page and their offer daily.


"It makes the piece of paper live," said Indra Paul, vice president/general manager at Digimarc MediaBridge Group. "The consumer can have a different experience every day."


Market research firm IDC, Boston, recently reported that 27 million scanners will have been sold or given away by the end of this year compared with 7.5 million Web cameras. IDC predicts that the number of scanners will grow to 36.6 million next year, while Web-camera-enabled homes will increase fivefold during the next three years -- also topping 36 million.


The size of the population that can already use embedded direct mail pieces may not immediately grab the attention of mass marketers, said Dean Baker, vice president at Intelligencer. He said the deal with Digimarc dealt with his firm's intent to get technologically ahead of other printers as much as it did with generating broad interest.


However, Baker said sales reps captured verbal commitments from direct marketers in various sectors in the first week of promoting the watermark technology.


"People have asked, 'Is this appropriate for me?' " he said. "But any good marketer would ask that question. Certainly we are going to be dealing with early adopters -- technically astute (marketers). We think it will attract the type that likes to think of themselves as technical leaders -- on-the-forefront type of people."


The watermark's embedded coding, and the marketing versatility that comes with it, allow Intelligencer to offer direct marketers abilities that don't normally come with mail campaigns, Baker said.


Marketers who have real-time Internet tracking systems will be able to monitor different offers and varying designs of a print mail campaign. The number of hits a Web page gets will tell a company which versions of a mail campaign are working from the outset and which ones need alterations for the remainder of the run.


With computer users scanning in responses straight to databases, Baker said, a watermark-aided campaign also saves cash that would be spent on the services of data-entry professionals. In addition, he said his company would save marketing firms money on prepaid postage that would be spent on reply cards.
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