Production: Foundation for Automation
The creative team’s responsibility is to deal with creative assets, layout and messaging. At the same time, the data team will deal with data sourcing, file layouts, business rules and analytics. Both teams will be involved with pre-production auditing/proofing. The project workflow is best visualized as a river that breaks into parallel creeks and then comes back together. Both “creeks” should be coordinated to work concurrently and complete their steps as close to the same time as possible.
Step 1—For the creative team, most programs start with its being provided as many of the creative assets as available. These assets will be electronically warehoused in an asset management system for use throughout the program. Basic steps like naming conventions, as well as processes for posting and changing images, proofing, and approvals for use are all established during this step. The service provider immediately will start providing press proofs for review and color management. (Proofing off of a digital press is necessary since most print files were developed for traditional printing and not digital. Digital printing will change the look of these files, so proofing and adjusting images may be necessary if quality is a requirement.)
The sheer number of creative assets often will take up much of the time spent on program development. Once images are approved, press settings and proofing documents are finalized and used for quality control on all follow-up pieces. These individual assets are combined during the composition phase to create truly variable printed pieces.
Also during Step 1, the data team is developing and confirming all the data sources. In many complex VDP programs, this can include combining multiple data sources such as customer information, purchase history, some type of scoring or demographics input, offer matrices. and other sources. File layouts are determined and tested. Finally, transmission protocols are established for dealing with how the data is passed to the provider, taking into account several factors including security and reporting.