And while for some that message may ring a little hollow, the IPIA was keen to allay the worst fears of the marketers and print buyers in attendance, most importantly on the impact of GDPR.
The organisation was keen to stress print’s unique ability to sidestep the worst of the new regulations, reinforced by the roster of speakers.
“GDPR has had the biggest impact on the print business out of anything recently,” said event host and Marlixia Group head Graham Reed. “I believe it is a good thing for the printing industry.
“It’s like when you buy a new gadget for your home and don’t know what to do with it. You put the instructions in a drawer to come back to but never do. Essentially, printers and marketers now have to do that with their data and look at how they use it effectively.
“Advantageously, print counts as legitimate interest so does not need explicit consent for communication, but we have to make it personally relevant and connected to the wisdom of its audience in order to adapt.”
Forward-thinking print companies were on hand to push messages of positivity, like Webmart – whose offering puts print within a multi-channel mix. Founder Simon Biltcliffe spoke eagerly about a so-called “renaissance of print in a GDPR world”.
He said: “The key is to link the physical and digital worlds together – moving between them gives you a unique competitive edge. Even Facebook has now introduced print into its mix because of the advantages of a blended output.
“One of our customers went from a database of 1.3 million people down to 30,000 after GDPR, but physical media has an authentic quality to help re-engage clients.
“If you strive to lead the way with your print output and collaborate with your suppliers, treating them like consultants, there is a huge opportunity for us all to succeed as friends.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, EPIP 2018’s speakers were consistently upbeat in their appraisal of the power of print. Duplo international marketing head Marine Kerivel-Brown spoke of physical media’s ability to “reignite the senses”, while keynote speaker and brand mogul Rafe Offer perceived a “counter-trend against humans becoming more like robots” in the gradual return to print among younger consumers and businesses.
The hyperbolic declarations were backed up by research presented by Seirian Hanner, head of insight at Royal Mail MarketReach, and the cool-headed realism of Ice Blue Sky’s GDPR-adept managing director Charlotte Graham-Cumming.
“We have tracked mail and email for 10 years to see how customers interact with brand communication,” said Hanner. “Actioning from a print communication is 47% stronger than with digital, as it is found that a person reading a letter does nothing else simultaneously, while people are more easily distracted when engaging with digital content.
“Mail makes memories and leads to long-term encoding, so its effects last over time and can in turn prompt further online activity. Our neuroscientific approach simply shows that people still have lives offline and we must consider that in our communications.”
Graham-Cumming followed up on Hanner by speaking plainly about the new landscape for print. She pointed to haircare brand L’Oréal, which suffered a halving of its database when GDPR came into force, but actually saw an increase in engagement from the customers who genuinely consented to communication.
She said: “As most of us know, GDPR came into force on 25 May and the world did not change – 99% of what it contained was already law. So, what has changed?
“Now, there is a greater emphasis on transparency – what data is collected, why, what will be done with it and when it will be deleted. Everyone on every link in the data chain has become more accountable but that just means great things for marketing as it brings you closer to the audience who actually want to engage with your brand.”
In his keynote speech, covering everything from cybernetic implants to billboards and brochures, Disney and Coca-Cola collaborator Offer possibly summarised best why print will thrive in the new world: “Print gives you that ability to be human again in a world of machines. It is the oldest new platform available to brands and, for those of us who grew up with print as the default, this is a very special time.”