Coinciding with Creo’s debut at Graph Expo 2004 of the Darwin Variable Information plug-in suite for InDesign CS, Adobe announced today the launch of the Adobe Variable Data Publishing (VDP) Resource Center, an educational resource for creative professionals, marketing departments and print service providers that aims to kick-start the adoption and implementation of VDP solutions. [...]
Coinciding with Creo’s debut at Graph Expo 2004 of the Darwin Variable Information plug-in suite for InDesign CS, Adobe announced today the launch of the Adobe Variable Data Publishing (VDP) Resource Center, an educational resource for creative professionals, marketing departments and print service providers that aims to kick-start the adoption and implementation of VDP solutions.
VDP automates the creation of customized materials by merging recurring content from a page layout template with variable data imported from a digital database. Using dynamic design software, such as Adobe InDesign CS, creative professionals and marketers then assemble these unique documents in which text, color and imagery are as individual as each recipient. VDP can provide an additional revenue stream for printers, and let marketers deliver more personalized campaigns that achieve higher response rates, yield greater return on investment and build stronger customer relationships.
One recent successful proof-of-concept use of VDP was Reason magazine’s controversial June issue. As we reported in April, each of the monthly Libertarian magazine’s 40,000 subscribers received a copy of Reason with a different cover photo—a satellite photo of his own neighborhood with his house circled.
“Reason is the perfect example of VDP,” said Michael Taylor, consultant and former assistant creative director for Imaginations UNlimited. “Adobe’s VDP Resource Center—indeed, VDP in general—is targeting marketers and direct mailers for now. But Reason proved that personalized content isn’t limited to marriage mail and form letters. Just think about the possibilities!” Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason, is already thinking of possibilities: “What if you received a magazine that only had stories and ads that you were interested in and pertained to you? That would be a magazine that everyone would want to read.”
VDP as a concept isn’t new; word processors and even PageMaker have had mail-merge functionality for more than a decade. Making the process truly efficient with graphically rich content, however, is a relatively new concept to for-print publications.
Adobe Illustrator has had VDP functionality since version 10 was released in 2001, though few know the feature is there, much less exploit it.
Here is one of those rare places where the Web came before print. Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, cookies allowed websites to identify and customize content for users via database integration, but it was only text and code; it couldn’t personalize graphical content that hadn’t been prebuilt in a fixed form. Once Macromedia released Flash Generator server, online variable data delivery took a huge leap forward. Now a designer could build rich, immersive designs with highly creative dynamic graphics generated on the fly in response to any personalization request passed to the server.
Before Flash Generator, Adobe’s now defunct ImageStyler handled limited VDP. “ImageStyler,” recalls Taylor wistfully. “Man, that made the task of building or rebranding a 700 page website a breeze. We never had to make headline or subhead graphics by hand. ImageStyler did it all.”
ImageStyler was a single-purpose application: It crawled an entire website looking for instances of text enclosed in particular HTML tags (<H1> or <class=something>), then, using a specially formatted Photoshop-created template, converted each instance into a new graphic image. Regrettably ImageStyler was ahead of it’s time. Perhaps it was the similar name it bore to the then also new ImageReady, which was initially sold as a standalone application rather than bundled with Photoshop as it is now. Whatever the reason, ImageStyler was retired after only one version and a single .1 udpate. It won’t run on any Windows system higher than Windows 98 or on Macs later than OS 9.
Now that the marketing, advertising, and design industries are finally beginning to understand the value of VDP in the print world, Adobe is, typically, already sitting in the driver’s seat.
”Today, more media channels and content streams compete for consumer attention. As a result, consumers expect marketing materials to be personalized. Our studies with consumers indicate that 69 percent prefer highly personalized direct mail. Spam laws have complicated this issue, forcing marketers to identify new ways to reach customers with personalized content,” said Charlie Corr, group director, InfoTrends/CAPVentures. “These challenges have created new business opportunities for print providers in the form of VDP. Printers are able to offer more value-added services that increase revenue and marketers are developing campaigns that get a higher customer response rate.”
Adobe’s VDP Resource Center showcases technologies and products and delivers educational materials to assist creative professionals and print providers in building direct marketing, lead generation, and loyalty campaigns quickly and easily. Customers can download free trial software and purchase VDP plug-in solutions from Adobe ISV partners, compatible with the Adobe Creative Suite, directly from the Resource Center.
A host of VDP design and publishing tools from software developers and digital output system providers are available as plug-ins for the Adobe Creative Suite. XMPie, Datalogics, Creo, Em Software and Sansui all offer VDP workflow solutions to address a broad spectrum of needs. For example, with the new uDirect plug-in for Adobe InDesign CS from XMPie, creative professionals can design, preview and output VDP files for a multitude of output devices directly from their desktop. The DL Formatter DL-100 from Datalogics lets Adobe Acrobat users create templates in any design tool and add the variable elements and logic from within Acrobat.
”Marketers, designers and print providers that offer VDP-enabled solutions can grow their own businesses by helping customers produce more effective and profitable communications campaigns,” said Jim Heeger, senior vice president of Creative Professional Products at Adobe. “With Adobe Creative Suite, InDesign CS and Acrobat on the desktop, VDP workflows are now accessible to a new generation of creative professionals who want to deliver personalized campaigns for print or the web.”
The VDP bandwagon is rolling, and Adobe is driving. Giddyup!