HP Printing Contest Winners Announced: An Inside Look at the Judges’ Perspective

At HP Indigo’s headquarters in Kiryat Weizmann, Israel, May 4–7, five judges, including the author of this report, decided the winners in HP’s second Digital Printing Contest. The winners were announced at HP’s Gala dinner at IPEX, held last week in Birmingham, U.K.

The five judges represented perspectives from print production, creative/agency, photography and marketing/business development from around the world.

Judges included Bill Garno, the director of the Printing Applications Laboratory at the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, N.Y.); Kai Hagenbuch, publisher of PrintCom Brasil and PrintCom Latina (Sao Paulo, Brazil); Yossi Lemel, partner and creative director in Lemel Cohen Creative Advertising Ltd. and internationally recognized poster designer (Tel Aviv, Israel); Thomas Hoepker, internationally recognized photojournalist (Germany, New York); and Heidi Tolliver-Nigro, industry analyst, founder of Digital Printing Reports and regular Printing News columnist.

Three winners were selected in each of six categories: marketing collateral, photo specialty, direct mail and transpromo, publications, environmental impact and special processes.

The contest was published in a variety of channels (e-mail personalized printed mailer, media alert and promoted through HP sales representatives and marketing personnel) and resulted in nearly 500 entries from Europe and the Middle East, North America, Latin America, and the Asian Pacific.

Entries came from 170 customers from 37 countries around the world.

Judging was lively, sometimes contentious, and centered around a debate of critical importance to the printing industry. This is the role of creative, marketing savvy and databases and multichannel integration as part of a printing contest.

Also debated were the importance of product innovation (unique uses for digital production processes) and whether there are instances in which these factors or the combination of these factors should be given priority over creative or production quality and technique in the final selection of winners.

On one hand, judges recognized that the business of printing is rarely purely about production anymore. For this reason, when it comes to contest judging, there is an important and sometimes conflicting relationship between production and creative that needs to be recognized.

“Creative, marketing and database development are increasingly becoming core competencies for printers and are often the key to business survival in this industry,” observed Garno. “However, traditionally, printing contests are just that—printing contests. It remains important that winners should reflect the highest standards in print production quality.”

Print and Design: Hand-in Hand

But what happens when a well-printed piece has terrible design? Should it win an award? Sometimes printers have no control over the content, but increasingly, they do. Many printers now have in-house creative agencies. This creates a real challenge for judging.

“We live in a world of images, packages and appearances, and great production is not enough,” commented Lemel. “You need the whole deal, the look and the concept that will go together hand in hand. Good production without a good design and a good concept is no good, and the other way around. Today’s target audience is more sophisticated and has no patience. If the product doesn’t pop up in terms of design and concept, he moves on.”

The ROI Factor

Because of the importance of marketing and database use to product development, this raises even more issues. Should factors such as marketing innovation, personalization, and campaign return on investment (ROI) be considered as having the same priority as creative?

“This became a real issue for us in one of the pieces, which was extremely well executed from a marketing and business development point of view,” said Tolliver-Nigro. “It had an extremely good use of personalization, with a very high level of relevance, but it was creatively very uninteresting. Yet, for business-to-business applications, this level of creativity is often not necessary. How do you evaluate a piece like this against a beautiful static piece that is well executed but shows no marketing or product innovation?”

In the end, three outstanding winners from each of the six digital printing categories were selected.

The judging process was filmed throughout and was highlighted during the event as a video produced by HP and shown at the company’s Gala dinner.

During the judging process, HP also solicited suggestions from the judges for future selection of winners. As a result of these suggestions, HP is now considering the addition of a product innovation category in future contests to showcase entrants whose products do not necessarily fit into traditional categories but that show extremely high production value and that reflect the unique capabilities and opportunities offered by digital print production.