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Printing Industry Exchange ( 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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Large Format Printing: Versioned Standees and “A/B Tests”

I never thought it would happen, but it did. I just saw a “versioned” movie standee. Actually, I only figured this out by chance tonight, as my fiancee and I installed a second copy of the Rio 2 standee at a second movie theater. I went to look for two animal “lugs” (a panther and what looked like an anteater, Charlie). I couldn’t find them, and I assumed the distributor had inadvertently left them out of the box (which has happened in the past).

What Happened to the Standee?

Lo and behold, when I looked at the instructions, I saw an adjusted set of animals distributed around the background box structure of the standee. When I compared the instruction sheet for the first installation to the instruction sheet for the second, I noticed that two animal “lugs” were gone and one had been moved.

Why Would The Standees Be Different?

I thought long and hard about why the marketing company that had created the large format print standee would have made such a change. My fiancee thought it was their solution to a custom printing problem, but due to the specific change in the instructions, I thought it was more likely a conscious and planned decision to engage in “A/B Testing.”

What Is A/B Testing?

A/B Testing is a marketing device in which one element of a creative design (perhaps on a web page or a print product) is changed with the goal of determining whether the change in creative will result in a change in behavior of the viewer or user.

In other words, will the change promote “conversion,” the marketing term for the prospect’s taking the desired action. In the case of the two versions of the standee, the question would be whether making the standee less complex by omitting the anteater and panther, and moving a group of monkeys, would affect the viewer’s engagement with the standee and his or her impulse to buy a movie ticket.

Making the Design Change Easier to Actually Produce

Upon closer observation of the print book of instructions and the standee itself, I noticed that the drill holes that allowed the installer to attach the lugs to the top of the background structure were the same as on the prior standee. In essence, the designer had made a change in design that would not require making new custom printing plates or new diecutting dies. Clearly this would save money.

The set of monkeys that had moved several feet to the right in the assembly instructions would not cause a problem for the following reason. They were to be attached to the background only with double sided tape, not screws. Again, I saw this as evidence of forethought.

Was This The Real Reason for the Change in Design?

It’s a good question. I don’t know. There was no one to ask. However, if this is the reason for the change (which I have never before seen on a standee), it most probably would have been implemented in this way with this marketing goal in mind.

How You Can Apply This Knowledge

The preceding example of A/B Testing might seem totally removed from most custom printing work, but here’s why I think it is relevant.

If you’re designing a high-end automotive brochure, for instance, and you have two different product shots of a car, you may want to produce half the press run with one photo, change plates, and finish off the press run with the second photo replacing the first. Something as simple as a color change (from a white sports car to a red one, for instance) could have a dramatic effect on the readers’ response rate. And this information might give you insight into consumer buying patterns.

Granted, you might want to change the text instead of the photos. Perhaps the first version might include one product offer (a particular item for a particular price) and the second version of the A/B Test might include a different offer. Again, this might yield insightful marketing data.

Keep It Simple

To go back to the standee in which the creative could be changed without adding new folds, drill holes, or anything else that might inflate the production costs, it would be prudent in your A/B Test to look for simple changes you can make that will have minimal impact on the design or production of the piece.

For instance, if you are testing two versions of copy on an outgoing envelope to see which wording draws the most responses to the direct mail campaign, something as simple as the number of words in version A and B could affect the results.

More specifically, let’s say you write twice as much copy for version A’s envelope teaser as for version B’s teaser. Such a change might necessitate reducing the type size for the longer teaser copy to make it fit in the allotted space. This might then affect the readability of the text and therefore reduce the reader’s engagement with the direct mail piece. And all the while, none of this would be related to the actual content of the teaser copy change on the envelope.

So a good rule of thumb is to keep the changes definitive and simple, just as the movie standee designer only removed two characters from the standee (necessitating no other changes), and moved a group of monkeys (that could be attached with double-sided tape). The graphic artist created a simpler alternate design without raising the custom printing, diecutting, gluing, or distribution costs of the large format print product. Consider approaching your A/B Test in the same manner.

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