Print can capitalise on online’s failings

By Jo Francis, Monday 12 November 2018

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In its eighth year, the Power of Print conference played host to its biggest audience yet, with more than 200 attendees heading to Stationers’ Hall to hear from an impressive line-up of speakers.

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It was a packed agenda with experts from a broad array of organisations sharing their insights and perspectives on a wide range of print-, packaging- and environment- related issues. 

If there was a common theme, it was this: the increasingly large question-mark over the efficacy of some forms of online and digital advertising presents an opportunity for print professionals to step in with a strong pitch based on trust, standout and proven effectiveness as part of an overall campaign. And the widespread outrage over plastics has created fresh demand for “heritage materials” (as described by Kevin Vyse from Marks & Spencer) such as paper, board, metal and glass.

Mark Davies, managing director at Whistl Doordrop Media, said that statistics from the Interactive Advertising Bureau show that more than half – 54% – of all digital advertising isn’t actually seen, while the definition of ‘being seen’ was also “ridiculously fleeting and ephemeral”, whereas printed mail and doordrops were “a hard-working channel” by comparison.

“There is a clear mismatch between consumer and marketer behaviours,” he stressed. “Some clients are in a ‘trough of disillusionment’ and I think we are seeing a correction.”

Davies pointed to the opportunity in making print easier to access, by taking inspiration from how simple it is to buy advertising on platforms such as Google or Facebook. 

“Lots of products are now automating the customer journey and allowing people to access print in a way they haven’t done before.”

Dan Davey, chief executive of Progressive Content, said that while a substantial amount of publishing spend had undoubtedly shifted from print to online, “and anyone who thinks mass print is coming back any time soon will have a long wait”, printers should focus their efforts on where the medium could be most effective. 

He cited the example of an integrated campaign for a high-profile financial client that included video, social media and a dedicated website, together with an event where a special book was given to an audience of C-suite executives.

“All 400 copies were taken, not a single one was left and then we did a reprint. Crucially the book went 100% into the hands of the people controlling the spend,” Davey said.

“Put quality before speed and celebrate the value that print offers. Don’t be afraid to highlight that what you get for more time is worth it. Brands and agencies are very willing to invest in print if you present a compelling case.”

The day’s final speaker, was Katherine Punch, head of new business at August Media, who described print as “extraordinarily versatile”. 

“It can be premium or practical, it’s so malleable,” she said.

She pointed to a disconnect though, because “everyone loves print but not everyone is using it,” and urged printers to arm themselves with the latest research. 

“I have never seen so much research on print,” she stated. “There are so many pieces of data that validate the choice of print. You have everything you need to defend your argument.” 


Speaker soundbites

“The industry is changing and our clients are changing. The key to success is the ability to think about that and adapt. The process of adaptation is key to realising exciting opportunities.”

Charles Jarrold, chief executive, BPIF

“You are more likely to survive a plane crash or climb Mount Everest than click on a banner ad. We need to turn the weapons back on and seize what I see as a huge opportunity to bring back digital spend into our channels.”

Mark Davies, managing director, Whistl Doordrop Media

“The future of print is very much in our hands. Test and look ahead at emerging technologies. Keep an eye on the future to choose the right path.”

Rory Byrne, business development director, Imagination Europe

“Things are changing. There is an opportunity for print to shine in a digital world. Brands are realising that ‘digital only’ can be extremely limiting.”

Dan Davey, chief executive, Progressive Content

“Campaigns should always be about balance – a multi-media approach to how it all works together.”

Vanessa Clifford, chief executive, Newsworks

“Paper is part of a circular economy. It’s a good sustainable solution.”

Trewin Restorick, founder and chief executive, Hubbub

“There are exciting new materials coming out of trees.”

Kevin Vyse, senior packaging technologist and circular economy lead, Mark & Spencer

“Print is authoritative and trusted. 3.6 million people used our printed information resources last year.”

Joe Waterton, head of philanthropy, Macmillan Cancer Support

“Print sidesteps online issues such as bots. It remains a trusted medium.”

Scott Barclay, head of strategic sourcing, Williams Lea Tag

“Clients know print is powerful and fosters deep relationships with consumers.”

Katherine Punch, head of new business, August Media

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