“If you want to reach a few hundred thousand people, and you only have 40 hours to print and ship, you need something like the power of the HP Inkjet Web Press to get it done,” says Williams. He and Cioban began talking with Jeff Lovelace, director of business development at print service provider O’Neil Data Systems (ODS) to work out technical and logistical challenges. A long-time HP user, ODS has locations in Los Angeles and Plano, TX.
The trio then brought their idea to Hearst Magazines. “Hearst was very receptive,” recalls Lovelace. “They understood very quickly how this could impact the longevity of publishing a traditional magazine.”
That’s no small buy-in. The unit of Hearst Corp. is one of the world’s largest publishers of monthly magazines, with 20 US titles and more than 300 international editions. (The company publishes 24 magazines in the UK through a wholly owned subsidiary.)
In the winter of 2010, it began developing the Hearst Personalized Advertising Platform by bringing together SCI, Cierant, ODS, and offset print production partner Brown Printing, based in Waseca, MN. The proverbial door to one-to-one print advertising had been cracked open.
It is interesting to note that while the overall number of magazine subscriptions is shrinking, many consumer magazine categories with a demographically consistent readership have grown over the past decade or so. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of bridal publications increased by more than 233 percent, ethnic publications by 117 percent. Travel and regional interest periodicals also grew. Hearst is intimately aware of these statistics, along with this one: A Dynamic Logic study of advertising return on investment (ROI) found that magazines ranked first in driving purchasing intent among all media options. Magazines also were the top medium, on average, for helping drive web searches across all age groups, according to market research firm BIGresearch.
Hearst knew that the potential to reach readers with high-quality, personally relevant advertising was out there, but traditional offset printing made incorporating variable data cost- and time-prohibitive. Prior digital printing technology could not cost-effectively print at the volumes needed for a national magazine. However, wider high-speed inkjet web presses have changed the game: With full-color, 100 percent variable content printed at up to 400 fpm, the HP T300 Color Inkjet Web Press can meet the quality demands of an offset-printed magazine. The T300 can also produce hundreds of thousands of personalized pieces within the publishing industry’s short printing windows, says HP. The T350 model is even faster, with color speeds up to 600 fpm.
Not coincidentally, HP’s printing business stepped up as the guinea pig, becoming the first to advertise through the program. Science/technology monthly Popular Mechanics (circulation 1.23 million) was a natural fit. Brown began printing the now 111-year-old PM and four other Hearst titles two years ago: Food Network Magazine, Esquire, Marie Claire, and Town & Country.
Inserts + Onserts = Magalogs
The Hearst/HP team formed a campaign that ultimately produced customized advertisements for 300,000 subscribers in the nation’s 12 largest metropolitan areas. It included personalized “onserts,” printed by SCI, which harnessed the power of the HP T300. “Onserts make addressing easier,” notesDoug Sexton, who heads up global publishing market development at HP.
The ads featured full-color name/address variable data printing with photography of regional landmarks, such as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, as well as QR codes and personalized URLs that drove readers to an online sweepstakes for a chance to win an HP consumer printer.
The campaign also included a 16-page, regionally customized insert printed in full color by ODS using the HP T350. Two targeted, eight-page signatures featured information about HP technology and product innovation and provided subscribers with details on where to buy products locally. It also employed QR codes and URLs to drive readers to Web landing pages that enhanced the printed content. Cierant programmed all the websites and QR codes to match each of the 300,000 individual subscribers. To integrate that and other personal information into the printed collateral, SCI and ODS used front-end solutions, including communications management software HP Exstream.