The Best of Both Worlds

Dale Williams, Vice President of Operations at print service provider Strategic Content Imaging (SCI), was not convinced by the doom-and-gloom predictions people were making about the future of print media. Jim Cioban, CEO of data-driven marketing partner Cierant Corporation, wasn’t buying it either. That’s why, in early 2010, Williams and Cioban got together and asked, “Why not?”

Why not leverage data from hundreds of thousands of subscribers to create high-value, low-cost personalized magazine advertisements? Why not use customization to drive subscribers to online content tailored specifically for them? Why not use these tools to create more effective and measurable marketing campaigns?

Why not change the rules of print advertising?

The answers, they knew, began with the HP Inkjet Web Press (Booth 1241). “If you want to reach a few hundred thousand people, and you only have forty hours to print and ship, you need something like the power of the HP Inkjet Web Press to get it done,” says Williams.

They began talking with Jeff Lovelace at O’Neil Data Systems (ODS) to work out technical and logistical challenges, then brought the idea to Hearst Magazines.

Hearst knew of the potential to reach readers with personally relevant advertising, but traditional offset technology made variable data printing (VDP) cost and time prohibitive. Digital printing technology could not yet cost-effectively print the volumes needed for a national magazine, but changed that with the HP Inkjet Web Press.

In the winter of 2010, Hearst opened the door to one-to-one print advertising with the development of the Hearst Personalized Advertising Platform, bringing together print production partner Brown Printing, digital print service providers SCI and ODS, Cierant, and HP technology.

The breakthrough potential of the project attracted HP’s own printing business to be the first advertiser. The HP Innovation Ad Program produced customized advertisements for 300,000 subscribers in the nation’s 12 largest metropolitan areas, including personalized “onserts,” printed by SCI using the HP T300 Color Inkjet Web Press. The onserts featured full-color name and address VDP, as well as QR codes and personalized URLs driving readers to an online sweepstakes. The campaign also included a 16-page, regionally customized insert on HP technology and vendors printed by ODS using the HP T350 Color Inkjet Web Press.

First, Cierant programmed the websites and QR codes to match each individual subscriber. SCI and ODS then used front-end solutions to integrate the personal information into the printed collateral.

Printed on Appleton Coated Utopia Inkjet paper, the output ODS and SCI sent to Brown Printing for the magazine matched the quality of the offset-printed pages. Brown Printing bound the digitally and offset printed signatures and mailed the issue of Popular Mechanics. The concept of personalized advertising bridging print and online media was officially put to the test.

The ability to include personalized QR codes and Web addresses added a crucial layer of quantitative value. The onsert generated a response rate of more than 4% with 15,228 sweepstakes site visits. Hearst was also able to track the response rate according to the 12 targeted metro regions.

“HP technology allows us to offer another level of personal engagement, and we’re thrilled with the results we’ve seen from this first phase of the partnership,” says Michael Clinton, President, Marketing and Publishing Director of Hearst Magazines. “It places a new premium on the value of print advertising.”

Hearst now offers ad personalization with performance tracking across its publications, running six programs in 2012. Fashion, retail, and beauty brands alike have embraced the concept and seen positive results.