Suppliers Tout Speed, Efficiency at CADMCHICAGO -- If new products, services or clients are an indication of health, then direct marketing in the Midwest is on the mend.
Exhibitors at the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing's 51st Annual DM Days & Expo last week were equipped with brochure and spiel to tout what's new with them. What stood out was the emphasis on newer, quicker and more efficient technology to aid targeted marketing.
Start with suppliers in the database category.
AccuData America, a Primis company in Fort Myers, FL, is in the second phase of its online mapping offering to let users obtain drive times and personalization from maps. The service is available at www.acculeads.com.
Alterian Inc., Chicago, released the Alterian Engine 3.1, a proprietary database for marketing analytics.
Affinity Processing Services, a Lake Zurich, IL-based specialist in direct mail personalization, recently introduced the IBM InfoPrint 130 Plus, a four-color laser system. The company also plans to triple its lettershop capacity.
Banta Direct Marketing Group, Oakbrook, IL, introduced the Harris M 110 press in its Elk Grove, IL, facility for inline production of direct mail print programs.
Alaniz LLC, Mount Pleasant, IL, is working with Kodak to bring in its NexPress product for full-color digital printing on demand.
"We'll try to use it for personalized applications rather than just as a four-color digital press," said national accounts manager Randy Pence.
Southwest Publishing and Mailing Corp., Topeka, KS, began manufacturing envelopes, embossing hard cards and printing on plastic. The company won Atlanta agency Target MarkeTeam as a client.
"Business has been good and it picked up a few months ago," said company vice president Angie McAtee. "It's pretty stable right now."
Among the list brokers present, Alpha Beta Press Inc., Tinley Park, IL, has integrated its Web services with digital and variable printing to eliminate almost all human intervention.
Growth is the theme at Johnson & Quin Inc., a full-service direct mail production firm in Niles, IL. The company started designing and maintaining Web portals for multiuser campaign ordering. Next, it added card imaging and affixing capabilities. Finally, an improved online proofing system will roll out in the third quarter.
Expanding into other media vehicles, DM agency Web Direct Marketing Inc., Wheeling, IL, is placing mini-catalogs in consumer and trade magazines.
"They're onserts and they tend to dominate the publication, so they really tend to open right up to the reader because of their bulk," said Vernon Carson, president and founder of Web Direct Marketing.
Innovation is alive even in the archly traditional envelope manufacturing business. Japs-Olson Co., St. Louis Park, MN, expanded its Stochastic printing process from sheet-fed press to web to develop finer screen value. It also is in the process of growing its inline inkjet facilities.
Federal Envelope Co., Bensenville, IL, recently added open-end equipment that does latex and peel-and-seal inline work, specializing in 9-by-12 inches envelopes.
Another player in the same arena, National Envelope - Great Lakes LLC, Elk Grove Village, IL, introduced its offline Maxiflex process to do up to five colors on a 9-by-12 inches envelope.
Local competitor Colfax Envelope Corp., Buffalo Grove, IL, is noticing that customers are willing to break the mold.
"Customers are getting more creative with their choices of paper, with their envelope sizes and their use of ink," said Kathleen Thomson, account manager at Colfax. "I attribute this largely to the improved economic climate resulting in larger direct mail budgets."
Tension Envelope Corp., Des Moines, IA, is increasingly aware of the rising popularity of the four-color process flexo.
"[Marketers] are looking for things that will get people to open the envelopes," said general manager Richard Schloerb. "We're seeing resurgence in opening devices or involvement devices."
Customized formats are on the upswing. To better serve this need, USA Direct, Skokie, IL, introduced usamailnow, a Web-based direct mail print-on-demand solution. Its users include The Home Depot Inc., insurance broker BISYS and the American Red Cross.
Lehigh Direct, Broadview, IL, is promoting its Lehigh Direct ProCard. Positioned as a cheaper and speedier alternative to ordinary plastic cards, the ProCard ranges in thickness from 6 mm to 23 mm and has two-sided personalization with UV coating. It is designed for single-pass manufacturing.
Like its peers, Duplication Factory, Chaska, MN, is aware that mailers are looking for something that makes their packages stand out. So it created a pop-up mailer with a disc that pops up when the mailpiece is opened. Literature can be inserted in a pocket, with a window for the address. A redesign will include a zip strip for opening like the one on FedEx packages.
One user of the new pop-up mailer is agency Conrad Phillips for its client, Ohio's Old Dominion University. Another similar mailer has a half-moon window showing the disc.
Magnets in mail also are gaining wider acceptance. USA/Docufinish, Plainfield, IL, recently launched laser-compatible magnets along with scratch-off labels and integrated window decals.
The Magnet Group went so far as to launch a new division called Magnets 4 Media in Charleston, SC. Clients include Corporate Printing Solutions for the American Breast Cancer Foundation's ribbon magnet and Inprov Marketing's magnets for the Joyce Meyers Ministries. The magnets are four-color.
On the sorting side, ProSort Services, Burr Ridge, IL, introduced a new service for smaller volume mailing that lets customers take advantage of postage discounts available to larger mailers.
Automated Presort Inc., Downers Grove, IL, was upbeat on the prospects of commingling.
"Commingling is now, more than ever, something for Standard mailers," said Chuck Wittmer, vice president of sales at Automated Presort.
New presses are in as well. Envision Graphics, Bloomingdale, IL, installed the Coldset web press called Didde 860. It prints newsletters and business reply cards.
All in all, most DM suppliers seem to be gearing up for more business. But worries still persist.
"We're seeing a very spotty market, from month to month, feast or famine," said Larry McCormick, vice president of sales at Tidewater Publishing Corp., Centreville, MD. "We'd love to see a little more stability, not only in the direct mail purchasing area, but also in the paper industry."