Food for Thought
Do you have the vision to survive in today's marketplace? That's the question the fledgling P3 association (Partnership in Print Production, a result of the September merger of the APPM and WIP) posed to nearly 200 members and guests at one of the organization's first luncheons, held at the Yale Club, in New York.
The guest speakers dispensing the answers: Victor Basile, senior VP and director of print graphic services for Publicis; Barry Meinerth, senior VP of production and fulfillment for Time Inc.; and John Campanelli, president of R.R. Donnelley Print Solutions.
The trio served up easy-to-implement advice rooted in the different yet symbiotic perspectives of advertising agency, magazine publisher, and print service provider.
On advertising agency trends, Basile says points to a growing list of influential agencies that dissolved or were taken over by one of the industry's four largest players, Interpublic, Omnicom, Publicis, and WPP. Between them, they control 82% of the market, Basile says.
Ad agencies continue to cut their budgets and change their pricing structures. For example, ad agencies used to easily get 17.65% of the ad spend as commission.
That provided no incentive to contain or shave production costs. "The more they spent, the more they made," Basile says. "Now agencies are using a fee-based structure, or experimenting with pay levels based on the success of a campaign."
To win business, sales executives at some agencies are promoting their firm's production capabilities, working with the production team to determine the best way to present their talents to clients.
One agency's production team, for example, determined the best way to produce a client piece was as a run-of-book ad, rather than an insert with a special ink. This type of internal partnering between production, sales, and creative can give advertising agencies a competitive edge, Basile says.
THE PUBLISHER PERSPECTIVE
On the publishing front, costs and leveraging production talents are also key competitive advantages, according to Time Inc.'s Meinerth. He says there are no great technological advancements on the horizon to help the industry reduce costs.
Rather, a focus on optimizing the human side of the workflow is where cost and time savings will be had. To that end, Time Inc. continues to invest in new technologies, but the emphasis is on the production people and the processes.
"We're looking for constant process improvement, and are reinvigorating TQM (total quality management) efforts from the early '90s," Meinerth says. "By 2005, we expect to be well along with JDF, electronic insertion orders, and virtual proofing. But most of the effort is systems and processes, not new technologies."
Meinerth says the best production executives are those with "great functional expertise, but who also possess an understanding of publishing dynamics," and who effectively contribute to the strategic planning.
"By the time you are a production director," he asks, "are you participating and contributing in long-term strategy sessions hosted by publishers and managing editors?"
A PRINTER'S ADVICE
R.R. Donnelley's Campanelli coached production managers to become an integral member of their entire company, and not just lead their department.
"Don't pit one department against another," Campanelli says. "It's not win/lose. It's shared risk and shared reward."
Production managers have to choose their areas to focus on for revenue, because "we can do anything, but we can't do everything," he says. "Growth equals value creation, so you need to lead your company to growth and not be a victim of management."
Web site: P3-NY.org.
- Kathy Sandler
Kathy Sandler is assistant director of the publishing technology department at Hearst Magazines, New York. She is a past president of WIP. Sandler can be reached at KSandler@Hearst.com.