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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  Keeping Print Production As A Vital Role In The Advertising Agency


Keeping Print Production As A Vital Role In The Advertising Agency

Posted on July 31, 2004 and read 13,331 times

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There was a time when Print Production was not only a vital component of the advertising agency …but it was also a department that was full of mystery—just how did they get those creative concepts into real ink-on-paper ads?

Print producers, or print production managers, or print production buyers as they may have been known as, were a tough breed. Originally populated by men (which was not unusual in the ad industry at the time), Print Production Departments had a definite hierarchy. Juniors joined the department as Assistants. Then worked their way up to a Coordinator. After several years experience at these junior levels, a Supervisor role would be offered. After several years in that role, one would expect to become a Production Manager. V.P.’s of production were not uncommon.

In Toronto, they formed a Print Production Association…originally titled the Print Production Men’s club (reflecting the times).

Why were they such a vital role? This was back in the time of hot lead type, and paste up boards, and rubylith. How those A.D concepts became a printed ad in the newspaper was still a mystery to many of those working in the agency.

The Print Production Department eventually saw amongst its ranks a rise in female numbers…as did all agency departments. Print Production, typesetters, traffic schedulers, paste-up artists, stat camera operators, and illustrators all made up the Studio services vital to producing the creative product. No integration with Broadcast Production…a completely different area of advertising. Most certainly never breaking the rule of “Production should never report to Creative”. Anyone who had professional training in Print Production prior to the 90s could answer immediately the reason for this rule…it’s a conflict of interest. Creative people are only concerned about the creative product. Production people have to address the sacred triangle of production: time, budget, quality. If a CD has control over production, budget and timing will not be the primary concern.

The related Traffic Department kept things in order and on track. Diligent young women kept the projects moving through the agency.

The Print Production Department had a lot of outside contact…suppliers to the agency like Typesetting sales reps, film house sales reps and printing sales reps all waiting daily in the reception room, to see what business that they could drum up that day at one of their daily agency stops. Suppliers were so important to Print Producers, that it was believed that Print Producers didn’t actually “work” for their agency. They were a “foot in the supplier’s area” and a “foot in the agency”. Print Producer careers were made on their supplier contacts.

The Advertising Agency Print Production Association (AAPPA) played a vital role in the promotion of the industry. The Executive and Members were a Canadian (more specifically Toronto) who’s who of Print Production. The annual Christmas social held at the Old Mill saw hundreds in attendance. Agencies bought whole tables to sit their production staff and invited supplier guests.

And training was held in high regard. The AAPPA along with the ICA (formerly the Institute of Canadian Advertising, now known as the Institute of Communications and Advertising) created the Certified Print Production Practitioner course. Attendance was a must. Juniors took the course. Classes were large and involved. You took the course, socialized after class. Got your CPPP, got promoted.

So what’s happened?

The advertising agency is changing. It was unthinkable in the 80s to think that an agency wouldn’t have a Media department in-house. Or that the traffic function would be integrated into either print production or account service.

Departments have flattened. The expected progression of assistant to coordinator to supervisor to manager is gone. Juniors with two years experience are given Print Production Manager titles…at half the salary that the title suggests.

Technology has changed. Typesetters? Film houses? Gone. Stat camera operators and paste up artists. Lost. Not needed. The intro of the Mac to our industry has simplified the process to the point that “the mystery” is gone. Typesetting, corrections, retouching, image swapping, output…it all seems that it can be done “onscreen” by a single operator.

This has been definitely reflected in the print production manager’s role. Agencies are not only shrinking the production departments, but in some cases they are even moving the print production function to the Studio, or account services. Agencies are losing the expertise that a print producer brings. Budget control, scheduling, and quality control are immediately affected. Typos are more commonplace and less attention to type (which is not to the standards that it was years ago) is generally accepted now in the industry. An experienced print producer can offer expertise in critical agency areas, even beyond the traditional. Brainstorming sessions…from creative challenges, to innovative new ways to reach the consumer would benefit from a print producer’s experience and insights.

Print production professionals need to improve their visibility in the industry. Build up their credentials. And prove their worth.

How can this be done? Reinvolvement with the PPA. The Print Production Association has struggled in recent years to fill their Executive. General meetings typically host only a dozen or so stalwart members, yet membership hovers near 100 members.

Continued training initiatives. The ICA still offers the CPPP course, including an option for a challenge test to skip the first year and enter the second year for more seasoned professionals to get their accreditation. ICA also offers the CAPPM course (Certified Advanced Print Production Manager) that offers further training in the management skills. It’s been on hiatus for the last several years as applications dwindled. The ICA also offers CAAP and CPM (Certified People Manager) certification courses, all of which are of value to Production professionals.

Print Producers should be building a higher profile in the agency. They should actively involve themselves in the area of project management. If account planners can focus on the needs of the consumer and work with account service to improve the creative brief, then why not have print production focus on the day-to-day needs of the project to improve the quality, budget control and timing of work?

The skills sets of a print producer are important to the process. And no matter what title the holder of those skills sets carries, it is imperative that agencies remember that those print producers make sure that the client’s work is done on time, on budget, and to the best quality standards.

And also imperative; that production people keep their profile high.


Wayne Aubert is the Program Coordinator and Professor of Advertising & Communications Media with Mohawk College in Hamilton, and well as the long time Course Director for the CPPP, CAPPM, and CPM courses at the ICA. For the past eighteen years he has worked in the print production industry on agency and client side.






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