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Printing Industry Exchange (printindustry.com) is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Custom Printing: Pairing Magazines with Virtual Reality

A friend of mine let me know this week that he had just bought the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated but that he had only bought it for the articles, not the pictures. He’s a former athletics coach.

When I learned that there were three (at least that I knew of) different covers of this particular issue, I asked my friend the coach if he had bought all three versions, or was one version (with one cover) enough for him to read and not look at the pictures.

Items of interest come in multiples, so I was not surprised to receive an article from another friend and associate noting the marriage of commercial printing and virtual reality. It focused on the same magazine.

Apparently 500,000 newsstand copies of the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated include a virtual reality viewer, a pop-up cardboard device that attaches to your smartphone. When you download an app, you can experience content beyond that in the swimsuit issue (“’intimate access’ with five featured models,” according to the article) in a fully immersive way.

I urge you to look up the article online. It is entitled “Quad/Graphics Enhances 2016 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue with Virtual Reality Viewer.” It was written by Elise Hacking Carr and published on February 23, 2016, on the Print+Promo website.

Why This Is Important

According to Carr’s Print+Promo article, the marriage of commercial printing and virtual reality is important because it extends the reach, creativity, and effectiveness of marketing. Carr notes that, “advertisers are able to brand and print four-color process on the unit’s [the virtual reality viewer’s] outer shell for increased brand visibility.” She also quotes Joel Quadracci, chairman, president and CEO of Quad/Graphics:

“Publishers are looking for new and innovative ways to connect more with their readership.

“The QVR Viewer allows them to provide enhanced digital experiences that complement and extend their brand, or advertisers’ brands, beyond traditional print or digital content.

“Compared to other paper viewers, the QVR Viewer is an economical way to reach readers and consumers with a fully branded gateway to digital content.”

My Take on the Technology

I learned the following from my interaction with the sports coach and from the article I received from my other friend:

  1. Unrelated to virtual reality, the concept of having multiple versions of a cover for a magazine shows how publications can be targeted to their readers. While this could be done before the advent of digital commercial printing (selective binding of the same publication using variations on the cover), it’s nevertheless much easier now with the new technology. After all, on a digital press you don’t have to just print a handful of different covers. You can print a different cover for each copy as well as different text/photos throughout. Mass personalization means advertisers can directly target small groups and even individuals with their advertising messages.
  2. Multi-channel marketing is powerful. If a potential client sees an advertising message on different platforms (email, signage, a periodical, and virtual reality, for instance), the marketing message will be exponentially strengthened.
  3. More and more, I’m seeing this concept put to use with increasing technical savvy (for instance, printing a poster with a near-field communication chip that ties into your smartphone). So the pairing of virtual reality glasses and a print magazine not only doesn’t surprise me. It intrigues me.
  4. Nothing sells like sex, so choosing the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated for the virtual reality viewer seems like a “no-brainer” to me.
  5. Paper folds, plastic doesn’t. So I am intrigued that Quad/Graphics was able to produce a foldable paper virtual reality device. Moreover, using an already existing base of smartphones in the marketplace and only providing the headset and lenses works on a financial level. Basically, the marketing prospect doesn’t have to buy anything. He/she only has to download an app and then use his/her existing phone to experience virtual reality.
  6. A paper structure for a virtual reality device provides ample space for a marketing message. It can also be printed flat and then assembled (much more easily than printing on a rigid, 3D molded plastic virtual reality headset). And it can be delivered to 500,000 readers far more easily and cheaply. So the designers of the product thought ahead to make the process easy for the printer as well as the user of the device.
  7. Hard-copy magazines reach an established reader base. Using print publications as a jumping off point into the virtual world is just good psychology and good business.

This is what happens when marketers take the time to understand their prospects’ interests, their custom printing suppliers’ capabilities, concepts of finance and cost analysis, the available cutting edge computer technology, and human psychology. More power to them.

2 Responses to “Custom Printing: Pairing Magazines with Virtual Reality”

  1. John says:

    These foldable paper VR viewers open a new door in print advertising while also adding a cool way to connect with audiences through an immersive media experience. It will be interesting to see how companies in different industries use these inexpensive viewers in the near future.

    • admin says:

      I’m glad you find the PIE Blog interesting and useful, and I appreciate your comment. I think these new viewers will catch on in a big way. Anything that links multiple media channels will reinforce a brand message exponentially, and any time a person can experience something in an immersive way using multiple senses, I think they will get excited. These are inexpensive viewers, and they employ technology already in the possession of the user. To me, that’s transformational marketing.

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