Grand Designs on Transpromo

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Everyone seems to be talking about ‘transpromo’ – the new art of placing targeted adverts on bills, statements and other transactional documents. Yet the discussion seems to be mainly focused on the technology issues that enable transpromo to happen on an individualised basis. What, then, of the creative challenges that transpromo throws out?

When we rename transpromo as just another form of white space management, the discussion is transformed. After all, it is easy to forget that creative agencies and the copywriter, particularly those in direct marketing, have been using these techniques since Dr Barnardo wrote his first appeals letter.

Take a look at the next mailing you receive and the chances are the headings will be in a bold font or using colour, the font may change using bold italic and underline, the sales message will be highlighted and the call to action will be clearly identified.

The difference between this style of copy setting and the current white space management is that documents with variable numbers of pages can use these techniques by using predetermined rules and logic rather than a fixed “one-style-letter-fits–all”, thanks to advances in document composition software.

What is white space management? It is a form of content management where parts of a document’s layout that would normally be left blank are utilised to carry a message to the recipient. The aim is to maximise the value of the communication by utilising existing production costs. The document moves from a solely transactional document to one which also carries sales and marketing messages.

Used in the context of business related documents, the term ‘white space management’ indicates a certain form of content management where parts of the document’s layout otherwise left blank are used to add customer messages.

There are five types of White Space Management techniques:

Simple:
The document is composed and any space at the end of the page is filled with a message. This will be based on simple logic which chooses a relevant message for the customer that will fit into the space. This style of white space management is more focused around the design of the document rather than any data intelligence. The key disadvantage of the style is that the consumer is required to read the last page of the document and the message tends to be less relevant.

Reverse:
The document is composed as normal to assess the amount of white space available at the end of the document. The document is then recomposed and the white space is forced to the front page of the document for maximum impact. This avoids the issue of simple white space management where it is reliant on the consumer reading to the end of the document. Again, it is focused around the design of the document rather than using the data intelligence.

Fixed Frame:
This is a combination of simple white space management where message B is placed in the white space at the end of the composed document and message A is placed in a fixed position in the document. The two messages are located in separate positions on the document enabling more opportunity for consumer to be influenced by the messages. The fixed frame drives the messages not the length of the document.

Contextual:
The document is composed to determine the amount of white space available. Instead of grouping the messages together at the beginning (reverse) or the end (simple) of the document, the transactions are analysed and the message is placed near relevant transactions. The benefit is that the message has more impact when it is placed near a relevant transaction. Examples include Google, Amazon and eBay.in the digital world.

Contextual white space management could be used on a credit card statement. For example, 20% off oil near petrol purchases, garden incentives near plant purchases and buy-one-get-one-free on shoes near purchases of clothing.

Cost Leveraged:
The concept of cost leveraged white space management techniques sits within the notion of a document fully formed, allowing for the intelligent use of remaining space for targeted customer communications.

In this context, we should see the production costs of a primary document as an investment already made and once a mail piece flows over onto another page. If it crosses a postal threshold, there is opportunity to increase message space at a small incremental cost.

However, the application of cost leveraged white space management techniques requires a sophisticated document workflow capable of optimising the format, structure and weight of individual mail pieces during the document composition stage.

To conclude, in page formatting terms, transpromo offers quite a number of options. Each will deliver different response rates and return on investment levels. And the matrix of format choices also has to be set against whether variable full colour is used – a factor which can significantly affect responsiveness. In short, the style of white space management chosen will be dependant on a number factors, not least the availability and cost of software and hardware capable of achieving your objectives and the ability to interrogate the data.

Patrick Headley
GI Direct
Patrick Headley is Sales and Marketing Director at GI Direct. He has held roles with Colorgraphic and J Howitt & Sons before joining GI Direct in 1993. Patrick started with GI Solutions Group as a senior sales person, progressing to Business Development Director, and now heads the sales team.

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