Taking Chances with One-to-One Communications
"The self-mailer would have a headline reminding the (buyer) of the impending lease end," Woodring explains. "The variable-data software could link to the information in the (retailer's) database and print a photo of (the customer's) old car and a photo of (a prospective) new car, with specifications and a lease price based on the parameters of the (prior) lease deal." The project was ambitious, and a plan was set in motion.
At Discover Color, Atlas Software's (Harderwijk, The Netherlands) PrintShop Mail became the variable-data software of choice. "(It) was chosen … because of its easy integration with (our) Splash RIP (which drives a Xerox DocuColor), and it had … variable-data, variable-image, bar-coding and numbering capabilities," Woodring says. PrintShop Mail offers a solution for integrating information from a source database with layout parameters defined in PrintShop Mail.
The key to this project's success was to find a method for importing the customer's Access data to PrintShop Mail. Sounds simple? It was, until Woodring realized that the Access files could not be moved across platforms without difficulty.
Once the mailer's design was complete, it came time to address the importing/exporting issues. Discover Color received the customer's Access database (supplied by the retailer's IT department). The data, which ultimately had to be proofed by the customer (and by a department that didn't use Access), was then imported to a Microsoft Excel application and e-mailed for approval. With all revisions made to the Excel records, the file was e-mailed back to Discover Color and exported to dBase 4.0, which interfaces more easily with PrintShop Mail, says Woodring.
While the workflow may seem a bit labor intensive on the surface, it proved to be the most efficient way to have the customer proof the data.
With workflow in place, the retailer still seemed trepidatious, according to Woodring, who confides, "The customer was concerned about the print quality of the electrostatic print process. Discover Color suggested a hybrid production workflow that utilizes both electrostatic and digital offset technologies. (We decided to) print the front side of the postcards on a Heidelberg QMDI and print the variable-data/variable-image side on the DocuColor. The stock (we chose) was an 8 pt., Carolina C1S cover," which, Woodring adds, was key in camouflaging the fact that two print processes had been used.