Farm Journal Takes Personalized Advertising to a New Level
Variable data printing (VDP) offers magazines a means of targeting advertisers' messages to subscribers by demographic and/or ZIP code. Today, as publishers and their sales representatives are looking for new options for delivering their publication's audience in ways that best benefit their advertisers, VDP is used to allow advertisers to personalize messages with both images and text to target even just one reader.
"VDP allows a magazine to digitally print each individual copy with different messages," says Steve Custer, publisher of Farm Journal and Top Producer magazines in Philadelphia. Farm Journal uses VDP for advertisers to promote products to different customers.
"And it's not just in black plate changes; it's four-color," he adds. "The advertiser can alter the message to each customer or prospect—even varying the brands advertised, [and] the text and photos used.
"With VDP, it all depends on having a good database. This database must contain all of the pertinent information about a customer," Custer explains. Farm Journal—a monthly magazine founded in 1877, with a circulation of 445,000 commercial farmers and ranchers—collects about 100 different data points from all of its readers.
Farm Journal has been collecting data on its readers since the early 1960s. At that time, it asked its printer, RR Donnelley, how specific messages could be sent to specific customers using the publication's database.
As a result, "selectronic binding" was developed allowing the magazine to produce different versions to different types of farmers and ranchers. RR Donnelley worked with its suppliers to selectively bind and print Farm Journal with targeted messages.
Selectronic binding was a predecessor to VDP. It allowed a magazine to bind different forms based on each reader's farming or ranching operation—for example 250+-acre corn growers. Custer explains that an advertiser could also use the capability to vary the message so that growers in a certain region get one message, while growers in another region get a completely different message—but both for the same brand.