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Monday, February 11, 2013

HOLD ON TO YOUR HATS, TECHNOLOGY STORM AHEAD

A trip to L.A. to visit with our rep on the west coast, Patty Sweet, ended the year. Patty was a young and very cute saleswoman who had two major accounts, Imperial Equipment and Gans Ink. At its peak the west coast generated about 50 pages of advertising. The  guys couldn't stay away from Patty. She was a fashion plate who wore very high heels. "They're my f-me pumps, "actually completing the f-word, she'd brashly tell her male accounts .At the ink company, I discovered Bob Gans was a real character with a quirky promotional flair. Imperial Equipment was a distributor for Komori, sheetfed presses imported from Japan, and  the family business was growing rapidly. We renewed both contracts for 1980, visited a  couple of smaller accounts, and I returned to New York to work on budgets and sales contracts for the new year.

During the first week back, I had two phone calls impacting my progress at Graphic Arts Monthly. The first came from Rod Borum at PIA, who invited me (and my wife) to The Presidents Conference, which was to be held in Acapulco, Mexico. He told me there would be no registration fee, and he was looking forward to forming a closer relationship...it was like he was reading my mind. We made the trip and we met scores of the larger printing industry CEO's. Rod's  memory was as good as mine. He knew the names of every one of the 250 attendees. The conference sessions began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at noon. Except for one motivational speaker, Bob Sprague, of Annapolis, Maryland., the program was rather bland, and I noticed some audience members napping during slide presentations.

The second call came from Helene Eckstein of Spectrum, a relatively new supplier of color separations located in Denver, Colorado. She wanted to schedule a meeting at my office. She said she was bringing her husband, Irwin, and had an offer I couldn't refuse. When they arrived, they were well prepared. A professional presentation introduced me to Color Electronic Prepress Systems (CEPS). She and Irwin had opened a service bureau (much like those in the early 1970's for typesetting), and would be producing color separations with the new technologies. She wanted to promote the service to  printers through advertising in GAM.  I later learned that there were four companies manufacturing those systems, Scitex (Israel), Crosfield Electronics (England), Hell Systems (Germany) and DS Screen  (Japan). The systems were priced in the millions of dollars.  I research our separation costs and determined that GAM  could barter six pages of four color ads for separations and still  exceed our budgeted profit margin on that space. It was a  good deal.

Technical Publishing had centralized departments for production, marketing, accounting and circulation. When I approached Karen Baron, head of production, with the plan, she balked at the proposition. "You are going to diminish the color quality of GAM," she insisted. In spite of her objection, I made the finalized the agreement with Spectrum. Over rest of the year, prepress service bureaus blossomed across the country like flowers in a spring garden. (Within 10 months Karen ate her words and all of our magazines were using service bureaus and saving thousands of dollars in separation expenses.) The new technology also created  another category of advertising, along with ink, paper, equipment and supplies, as well as service companies including the major dealers and distributors. Our market share was only a few percentage points higher than our competitors, so I included increasing market share as part of the sales staff's' contracts. What with printing and postage increases, we raised our rates 7%, almost all of which went to the bottom line. And there was one more change. Paper advertising, generally inserts of stock samples, were charged the black and white page rate, based on a 40-pound insert. But paper companies began running heavier stock for more attention. Inserts were placed at the end of a form, and  interrupted the flow  of the book.  ,As paper advertisers increased the weight of the stock, we increased the cost, charging an additional  10% premium for each jump in weight. A heavy card stock insert price might be twice the normal black and white rate, and each two side insert was counted as two pages..

We also implemented a new system of closing each issue. My assistant, Diane Ruggeri would contact each salesperson twice a week to determine whether an account was "in" or "out", and advise them if we had the insertion order and material to print. In an effort to encourage them to contact every client, every month, there was a new rule. My memo read, "Heaven forbid we get an order from an advertiser you have told us is "out".  If we do, you  will be fined $100 every time we find you have failed to contact a buyer before each closing." The edict forced the sales force to be in touch with every advertiser every month. Sales in the first quarter jumped and so did profits.

As Print '80 approached, the editorial staff met to plan the issue, and I told them I had budgeted for 200 pages of ads so we needed at least 100 pages of editorial. Their faces went white, especially the editor's. "We've never had that many ad pages," he said with worry written all over his bald head. After the meeting, I ventured into the art department and asked for a favor. I wanted a dozen signs, about 18" long.  I explained I wanted large type, all caps, that read, " PRINT'80 ---200 PAGES OR BUST", with the GAM logo at the bottom. In a couple of days we posted those signs around our office, even the reception area It became the major topic of conversation about the office. Our entire staff was rooting for us to meet the goal. The 50th anniversary issue the previous September carried 179 pages, and I wanted to surpass that number. When we hit 200, we catered a lunch in celebration, and I told the staff, "You ain't seen nothing yet!" Every day I had the art department increase the number on the signs by five. The morning we  were to close the signs read, "230 PAGES OR BUST." We closed the issue at 231 pages, the largest issue ever in the history of Graphic Arts Monthly. (What happens at Print '80 Stays at Print '80 in Wednesday's blog.)