Tag Archives: digital

Transcending the Traditional vs. Digital Divide

There’s a growing division in the advertising world: a yawning chasm between traditional and digital approaches. Old-school marketers, direct mailers and brochures in hand, stand on one side, and tech-savvy SEO gurus, web developers, and AdWords adepts on the other.

Yes, sometimes the two sides work together, though typically in a patchwork-style campaign. Predictably, the results usually fall flat.

This schism between analog and online isn’t just wrong-headed—it entirely overlooks the enormous power unleashed when both sides work seamlessly in a cohesive strategy. Both types of media become exponentially more effective when working as one.

Moving Beyond with a Media-Agnostic Approach

Too many agencies, advertisers, and businesses side with a camp from the onset, before even considering the specifics of the campaign at hand. Would a mechanic trash half his toolbox before discovering why the car isn’t starting? Would a general dismiss half his troops before determining the mission? You get the idea.

Before restricting ourselves to certain media channels, we work closely with clients to intimately understand the goals, challenges, and needs of the campaign. Only then do we proceed with a media-agnostic approach to implementing it. We go with whatever delivery methods work best—and that usually involves a combination of tradition and digital tools.

Digital platforms are indeed where more businesses are moving, and for good reason. It’s increasingly easy for customers to learn more, take action, or make a purchase online. But that doesn’t mean traditional tools are obsolete.

Some of the most successful efforts leverage the considerable power of traditional media—a physical brochure, a captivating sign, a direct mailing—to capture attention and send customers to a digital destination—a landing page, a mobile app, an ecommerce store—where they can heed the call to action.

Great campaigns make use of all tools at their disposal, merging digital and traditional media in a sharp, channel-agnostic strategy. The dichotomy between digital and traditional media is a false one: transcend it to make your message more effective. To paraphrase Aristotle, the whole is far, far greater than the sum of the parts.

Author: Zack Smith


Managing: Production vs. Digital

When you are providing management oversight in this industry, it shouldn’t matter what type of job it is, correct? Well, that’s very far from the truth. When the company shifts from a production (print) environment to a digital one, project management has to take on a whole new role. Let’s start with some basic differences between production and digital.

The end result of a production job is tangible––you can touch it, see it, feel it. Also, you are generally on the same page with the customer or vendor when you agree on the paper, color, quantity, size, and binding. The proofing, or verification, phase is straightforward because you––and the client––can touch it, see it, and feel it.

Digital jobs are intangible. These jobs are generally process implementations, computer programming and software development––things you don’t touch, see, or feel. These jobs are usually something new for the customer or an upgrade to an existing system. Although customers know what they want, their needs are conveyed in general terms. The verification stage becomes a testing phase where clients may decide that it’s “not exactly” what they meant, or decide that something “a little” more is needed. At this stage, you will also encounter differences in opinion––for example, when you agree with the client that you are going to provide documentation, does that mean a “how-to” user manual or a “blueprint” to rebuild the program from scratch? This is where the real negotiating usually comes into play, but proper planning can avoid this pitfall.

There are five basic project management phases: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and completion. These phases should be followed for any type of project regardless of the final output. The planning phase is probably the most critical for any project and ensures that both customer and vendor agree on the final output. In a production job, planning includes negotiation and agreement with the client on the paper, color, quantity, size, and binding for the final product. In a lot of situations, a sample or proof is created so that there is no misunderstanding––again, you can touch it, feel it, see it.

When you are dealing with an intangible deliverable, the planning phase needs further expansion. The creation of a sample or proof is generally not feasible, and the final output will not be realized without a majority of the work being completed. Therefore, “enhanced” planning  is required when you have a project in the digital arena. You will need to create a detailed, step-by-step approach from concept to completion. In addition, you must avoid using general terms (which could lead to divergent expectations, as illustrated in the documentation example above) and be as specific as possible about the final product, as well as its limitations. You can’t read the client’s mind, so you need to be more inquisitive and document what you discover so that both of you can “see” what the client meant.

Author: Tim Murphy

Captcha If You Can

For those of you who visit the blog on a fairly regular basis (for which we offer our never-ending thanks), you will notice a small update has occurred on our blog and contact pages. Though we’ve tried to get by without one, we finally caved: If you want to contact us or interact with our blog, you now must cross that the extra trench of a captcha, a challenge-response test in order to ensure that your comment is from a real person.

Why, you ask? First and foremost, not having a captcha (which is an acronymn for “completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart”) creates an unnecessary security risk––and I just wrote about how companies need to step it up. Every time a website is open to the public to submit information, the same portal allows spammers––both humans and bots––to infiltrate and overload the website managers with spam. As everyone is aware, spam can be extremely destructive, though we were lucky never to run into that particular problem.

Our problem was one of inconvenience: spam that ate up a significant amount of resources. As one of the website managers, I’m here to tell you it was getting out of control. We would receive 35–40 pieces of spam on average per day, which on weekends would often spike up to 60–70 pieces of spam. On a week with minimal spam, we would receive almost 300 pieces of spam. Trying to sort out the legitimate comments and contacts from that list was often tedious and time-consuming. On top of this, the spam was also compromising our analytics of our website, which in a data-driven society would be reason enough for some people. So finally unable to bear the onslaught any longer, we implemented a captcha.

As you surf the Internet, you will notice there are many different types of captchas––often involving retyping numbers and text or, less often, executing math equations or seeing what is in an image––all with the goal of ensuring that you are human. Because of the print and digital nerds here at Vanguard Direct, we have opted for reCaptcha, a captcha that helps digitize print with every word typed in. How does it work? The program takes words that could not be read using optical character recognition (OCR) and distributes them for users to type in before they can submit other information to a website (such as comments on a blog). How does reCaptcha know the word is correct and that you are human? Two words are presented to the user, one of which is known already. If that word is answered correctly, then the user gets access to the web content and the unknown word is logged with reCaptcha with your possible solution. As that word gets typed, eventually a consensus emerges and the word can be determined with high confidence. With the amount of captchas getting filled out every day, the more reCaptcha is used, the quicker we can archive things that exist solely on paper.

Remember that a captcha can help filter out most spam, making both your life easier and your website a safer place to visit. This week I have gotten two pieces of spam. That’s a monumental decrease from 300. Using a service like reCaptcha on top of it also gives something back to the print and literary worlds, solving multiple problems at once!

Author: Zack Smith

The Last Dinosaur Still Reads Books

I recently visited the orchid show at the New York Botanical Garden in my beloved Bronx. I spent two hours enjoying the beginning of spring by taking pictures and relaxing among 10,000 orchids and 500 like-minded people. Most people were taking pictures with their smartphones or tablets. I was part of the crowd, equipped with my iPad, but by the end of my visit I went to the garden’s bookstore and gift shop.

The books were displayed in a beautiful setting among flowers, plants, and mood lighting, but the store wasn’t busy. This allowed me to compare a few of the flower photography prints in the books to the photos I took with my iPad. The iPad photos were all right compared to the professional pieces, but they did not jump out off the screen the way they did when I was looking at the printed material. I thought about all of the people who bypassed the store to beat the traffic home and missed out on a big part of the experience.

I have been taking photos of popular bookstores throughout New York City the last few months, and I find it sad that they are slowly disappearing. Though many protest, I still find an attraction to the physical printed piece, which always seems to have a lasting impression that its digital counterparts can’t seem to replicate. When the bookstore becomes extinct, both a visual and physical component of reading will be lost. The sense of touch as experienced with textured paper or the smell of a piece straight off the press is just as much of the fun as the content.

I must confess, however, that this blog was written on my iPad and my Botanical Garden photos have all been uploaded to my Facebook profile. There’s no doubt that digital technology makes our lives easier and information much more accessible. If I ever need to look up one of the flowers from the garden, I don’t have to go all the way back to the store––I can find it online.

In my next post, I will be sharing the results of a survey I conducted of younger generations and their feelings toward printed pieces and print aggregators like bookstores and libraries. You know this dinosaur loves his print, but how important is it to the new hands in this industry? Stay tuned to find out.

Author: Joe Corbo

Turning the Tech Tide: New York’s Ten-Year Plan

The Bay Area has long been known for its stunning ocean views and its dominance as the home of tech start-ups and worldwide technological leaders such as Apple, Google, and Facebook. The area’s leadership role, innovations, and share of the market surpass any other geographical area of its size. With hundreds of tech companies based in coastal California, to suggest that there could be a coup d’état would be preposterous to some, but you need only the facts and forward thinking to see the change in the tide.

A recent article on the Huffington Post notes that tech start-ups have been popping up on a different coast. Whether it’s because of the already heavily populated Bay Area and a lack of vacancy along the Pacific Coast Highway or a preference for the Big Apple, California has some serious competition. New York City, historically known for its “this is where dreams come true” atmosphere, is welcoming savvy developers and engineers by the baker’s dozen. In the past four years, nearly 500 start-ups have planted roots in Manhattan, making this multi-industry city that much more diverse.

With 500 new companies and a surge in members for NY Tech Meetup (an organization that supports the growing NY tech community) from 7,500 in 2008 to the current 25,000, one can only imagine the momentum and power that the East Coast “concrete jungle” is acquiring. Taking those numbers into consideration, we can see that location means everything.

What do the city and surrounding boroughs have that the Bay Area doesn’t? Hundreds of blocks of companies, grasping to attain a digital presence, all located next to the developers and engineers pitching tents. How can the Bay Area compete with “For Rent” signs that are next door to Fortune 500 Companies?

Companies like Vanguard Direct not only have the creative gusto to plan, create, and execute entire marketing strategies, but also boast the personnel to develop digital solutions. The merger of developers and tech start-ups with the creative talent that flocks to New York to be a part of the advertising scene is the final stroke. Thanks to New York’s newest residents, companies in many industries will now have direct accessibility to creative and marketing strategies that have been conceptualized for a digital platform.

This acquisition is part of a bigger picture for New York City––Mayor Bloomberg himself has tweeted on several occasions that tech start-ups are welcome here. His commitment to increasing the city’s industrial dominance shows that the thousands who flock to New York aren’t alone in their pursuit of their dreams. The city has dreams of its own, and has just added overthrowing the Bay Area’s long reign as Tech King to its ten-year plan.

Author: Elizabeth Zouzal

Toshiba’s “No-Print Day”…Kaput

What started out as a good idea for Toshiba, the National No-Print Day campaign fell flat on its face as the U.S. arm of Toshiba pulled the plug, bowing to industry pressure. The message was not even heard as much as the slogan. In this day with Print struggling to stay current in its uphill battle against New Media, the last thing needed was a campaign called “No-Print.”

Initially the campaign was set as a “Green” PR event in hopes of putting a better spin on Toshiba’s poor environmental record. Offering a statistic of 40,000 trees a day being wasted by office paper waste was a great tag line and a noble cause. Printing Industries of America was one of the most vocal critics and not because of the “cause,” but the way it was presented. It was not specific in its message of recycle and renew and it seems the PR company that pitched the plan may not have understood the overall state of the industry in today’s environmental friendly world.

Vanguard Direct has long been a champion of using recycled paper in our print to our clients. There are many brands across the spectrum and most are a minimum of 30% Post Consumer Waste. Post Consumer Waste includes office paper waste and is in high demand these days. We have often advised projects to print on stock which has up to 100% Post Consumer Waste. In the past, uncoated stock was the leader in PCW content but with changes in manufacturing coated papers have regained ground and now offer up to 50% PCW. Federal guidelines for coated paper is 10% PCW content; we are proud to be able to offer 30 to 50% PCW content to our clients in all three finishes—Gloss, Matt and Silk. Our client’s often insist that not only the recycled logo be printed on their piece but the PCW content as well. This wide variety of renewable resources gives our clients an advantage over their competition and makes a statement about their corporate efforts to be “Green.”

The Paper industry as a whole embraces not only using recycled paper but also the use of wind power in its manufacturing process, supplying paper which is Processed Chlorine Free and is FSC Certified.  Aside from just the manufacturing process, the industry has taken on the lead from European Industry to create sustainable forests. FSC Certified paper is a certification from the Forest Stewardship Council that can accurately trace the final printed project to a certified sustainable forest through a chain of custody. This chain of custody begins in the forest, transfers through the mills to the paper merchant, then on to the printing plants and to the consumer. The truth of the matter is that there are more trees today because they are managed much like crops such as corn and wheat.

So how “Green” is your company? How are you viewed by your clients? Do you have corporate guidelines that include recycling or energy-saving programs? Are you using products that are approved by the Rainforest Alliance? If you’re not sure or have questions of how to get started don’t fret, here is a link to the Rainforest Alliance web page for “greening your office.”


Toshiba had the right idea but wrong execution; if the campaign ever finds life again, I am sure it will take on more of the tone it had intended. To printers and publishers around the world, “No Print Day” was Kryptonite and it should be placed in a lead-coated box and taken to a planet far, far away.

If you would like to follow the recycling trail, click on the YouTube link below.

Author: Tom Caska

Scodix Inkjet Spot UV––What?

Few know that Israel has invented and produced what I think is the most impressive digital printing equipment. First, came the Indigo digital press, and now comes Scodix. Scodix is a digital inkjet printer that can lay down clear gloss UV ink on preprinted sheets. So, what’s so cool about this?

Well to start, anyone in the industry knows the “wow” effect that spot UV has on the end user. But at the same time, everyone can attest to the “shock factor” when it comes to the cost! Needless to say, the traditional methods of applying spot UV have been reserved for plentiful marketing budgets and long offset runs. With a digital device like Scodix on the market, the Israelis are again changing the standards, much like digital print did to offset in the ’90s.

Scodix does a few cool things that traditional offset spot UV cannot:

  1. Economical short runs
  2. Variable content
  3. Variable depth, finish, surface area

The whole idea is that this technology can open up another dimension on print. As the VP of marketing, Ziki Kuly says best, “print has always been a two dimensional medium.” With the addition of this digital spot UV, Scodix is bringing print into the third dimension!

The real question is: Where can we implement this new technology to increase our return on investment?


Author: John Mehl