Production: Foundation for Automation
Creative audits are reviewed as press proofs to ensure that all the digital assets are being printed correctly, match the sign-offs done during Step 1 for quality and generally meet the standards. Formatting, variable-content-to-static-content comparisons and match-to-mechanicals are included in this review. Audits are actual printed records from the production device, so what you see is what you get. Due to the Step 1 proofing, there should be no surprises—though it is not unusual for there to be several rounds of audits prior to actual launch.
While the creative right brains are looking at layout and color, the data team left brains are diving into accompanying spreadsheets, confirming that the VDP programming logic is translating to the printed pieces. Depending on the number of variable fields, this could take hours or days. The initial setup requires stringent review of each provided audit to ensure accuracy. This step shows weaknesses in the data sources and allows corrections prior to launch. Like the creative audits, several revisions usually are required before final approval.
The pre-production audits process lays the groundwork for future audit protocol. Similar to Web site development, variable printed content constantly should be changing and refreshed to maintain relevancy to the marketer’s audience. These changes will be confirmed and approved using the same protocol established during the setup phase.
Once the pre-production audits are approved by both teams after the revisions process, a live test is done. This live test uses either a seed list or a control group. The live test is extensively reviewed by the combined marketing team (creative and data join back together). Once the test is authenticated as accurate, the program is ready to launch and transition to a managed program phase. Based on the hard work and diligence of the setup process, the program should be easy to change and manage on an ongoing basis.