Vertis’ Dave Colatriano on Soft Proofing
Recently, Target Marketing and Inside Direct Mail parent company, North American Publishing Co., has begun phasing out hard copy printer proofs in favor of soft proofing. Having never relied solely on soft proofing in the past, I was wary. But the end result was well worth the worry: The cost savings have been substantial, and we’ve been able to trim two days off our production cycle. In a time-crunched world where speed-to-market is so important, a day saved can be a dollar earned.
Curious to learn more about the potential applications of soft proofing for direct mailers, I reached out to Dave Colatriano, senior vice president and general manager of direct marketing and premedia for Vertis, a Baltimore-based marketing services provider that recently launched a new soft-proofing system. Here, Colatriano touches on some of the key considerations involved in implementing this technology.
TG: What exactly is soft proofing?
DC: Soft proofing is a technology that allows you to create a proof and … view it on a color-calibrated monitor with the proper viewing profile attached to it. It also gives you the capability to annotate, and will allow tracking—who made changes, who made annotations, who approved it—that will go along with the proof.
TG: What are some of the benefits of soft proofing for direct mailers?
DC: One of the benefits we’ve been using soft proofing for, as opposed to a color-correct contract proof, is annotation work. It’s been advantageous for us to create a file, make the [soft] proof and let the client look at it and make changes immediately. It saves time and money [because] we don’t have to overnight proofs. We get all the annotation work done up front, then we make a final paper proof to go to the press. So we’re combining both of them, really. As turn-around times tighten, and the ability to get your product in the mail faster [becomes] more important, using this technology allows the producer and the customer to communicate more efficiently, more effectively and quicker. With direct marketing, you want to have the freshest file, the freshest list—and front-end processing time is shrinking. You want proofing that can be done faster, and this allows for that because it’s desktop-to-desktop.
TG: What kind of cost savings can it deliver?
DC: That depends on a lot of factors. Number one, how many rounds of proofs do you go through up front? Proofs are not cheap. So if you go through four rounds of proofs that basically are thrown away because you are making changes, it can be a pretty dramatic savings. [You] should be able to calculate this—how many rounds of proofs are you going through right now? And are those rounds full-color proofs? Perhaps the early rounds can be done interactively through soft proofing, minimizing the cost of the hard proofs. Again, it also goes back to the time savings, [which] equates to money as well.
TG: What are the technical requirements?
DC: If you want to have soft color-contract proofs, you need to have a specified color-calibrated monitor, and there’s a list of what monitors are SWOP (specifications for Web offset publication) approved. That’s the industry standard. The more critical the color, the more critical the set up, and that means that when you set up the monitor with the proper viewing profile, you want to make sure you’re in a color-neutral room, the same way we view [paper] proofs. You don’t want color influences outside of the area you are viewing. So it’s critical that you have proper viewing conditions and proper color control over that monitor. If it’s set up properly, it’s very accurate.
TG: Are there any times when you would not recommend soft proofing?
DC: I don’t know that there are any times I would not recommend it, however, people have a preference of what they want to see as a proof. In some cases, people still want to have a paper proof to get an overall look and feel of the piece—you may not be able to get that … on a color monitor. That being the case, we may use a combination of both. A lot of times we make a blueline proof to show where the folds are and how they back up, which is one of the areas of concern.
TG: What advice would you offer to mailers about working with soft proofing?
DC: Make sure you have a good color engineering team behind you that can set up the color monitors properly; that you have the proper viewing profile and proper viewing conditions; and that you are using spectrophotometry to calibrate your color monitor.
[From the August 2006 issue of Inside Direct Mail, a sister publication to Target Marketing magazine. To learn more about Inside Direct Mail, visit http://www.insidedirectmail.com ]