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Digital vs. Screen and the Dilemma of Process Improvement

(June 2012) posted on Tue Jun 26, 2012

How will screen printers can take a leadership role in improving quality and integrating into a more digital-oriented advertising world?


By Mark A. Coudray

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Measuring as compared to digital
Digital has fundamentally changed the underlying economics of what we do and the way graphics are purchased. It is doing this in the same way it ravaged the television, music, video/motion picture, and publishing industries. While this is a grim reality, it does not mean we have to fully accept it as our inevitable future.

Understand the entire graphic communication industry was based on mass produced advertising volume. It is push based, where the industry pushes advertising out to the market and bases its value on cost per thousand (CPM) views or units produced. It cannot be measured effectively. The only metrics are aggregate metrics for the entire campaign.

Digital is different. It is based on a personalized unit of one. Everything about digital can be measured. As a result, the underlying production model we have used for the last 150 or more years is no longer relevant. It doesn’t matter how efficient you are if you can’t deliver graphics that fit into a metric-driven, analytic, ROI model.

This is a huge difference. Push based marketing is considered an expense, hence the focus is on reducing costs. This is something you cannot win. Digital is a pull-driven market where every individual instance is measured for an increase in ROI. Hence, it is an investment-driven model.

This is where screen printing loses the game. When advertisers can measure results down to the individual location, they don’t care what the cost is, as long as the return on their advertising investment meets or exceeds their expectation. They’re able to customize the graphics to each individual store, location, demographic, ethnicity, inventory item, and preference. It is as close to 1:1 marketing as we can get with this model.

This means the inevitable is variable-data printing (VDP), where the graphic content is determined based on rules merged from disparate and unconnected databases. The direct-mail industry has been doing this for years. It’s not a new concept. The granularity, or the resolution, of the offering is what’s new. New opportunities present themselves as computation speed increases and data move increasingly to the cloud. Whether we can take advantage of them or not will depend on how open our industry is to new ideas.


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