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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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Commercial Printing: A Select Few Advertising Venues

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The Printing Industry Exchange Blog is #12 of the best 40 digital printing blogs, as selected by FEEDSPOT.

I just learned a new word: “advertising creep.” I guess it’s like mission creep, in which your boss’ plans for you grow exponentially, and sometimes the original goal is lost.

Advertising creep is not a bad thing, though. After all, advertisers compete heavily for your attention. Just think about all the images and ads that bombard you when you go to the grocery store. Even the shelves now have “shelf talkers,” little signs as you go through the aisle, identifying and describing the merchandise, lest you not see it and walk on by. On Google, I just found that a grocery store has up to 60,000 individual SKUs (or distinct items).

A Grocery Cashier’s Branded Conveyor Belt

So in this light I was actually rather amused when my fiancee and I entered a specialty food store recently and found advertising creative on a formerly black conveyor belt at a checkout cashier’s station. Moreover, it had a huge QR code along with the bright advertising imagery and text.

So when we got home I Googled this new phenomenon (which I’m sure will spring up elsewhere as well) and landed on “,” where I did some research.

First I learned about the logistics. I found a video of a seven-year-old installing what looked like a long, flat strip of custom printing material over the black conveyor belt, then attaching the two ends with pre-positioned double-sided tape, and then using a roller to firmly adhere the adhesive-backed, printed strip to the conveyor belt. I hope they paid the seven-year-old. She did a great job.

Accompanying data on the website noted that most people would actually prefer to see advertising instead of a solid black conveyor belt. And from the point of view of the advertisers, this is a great opportunity. After all, for a good chunk of time they have the undivided attention of the target consumer. Even if he or she doesn’t buy the advertised product at that specific time, the message has been transmitted and stored in the customer’s subconscious. Maybe next time.

And in the case of my fiancee’s and my trip to the grocer, the huge QR code we saw will send anyone with a cell phone and the right app (or computer application) directly to the grocer’s website. From this point on, she or he can learn about food items, prices, and more. And everything I have read for years touts the synergistic effect of cross-media marketing. If you use more than one advertising medium together–seamlessly–moving the customer from the conveyor belt (metaphorically, of course) to the grocer’s website, your chance of increasing sales rises exponentially.

What makes this exciting to me is not that it exists now, but that it hadn’t existed before. Someone actually identified the few square feet in a grocery store not covered in flexible packaging art, folding carton design, shelf talkers, and other promotional signage. More power to them.

To go back to the company that makes these wraps (, here are some specifics from the website:

  1. There are 6,000 trained installers across North America (plus the seven-year-old in the video).
  2. The message wrap is supposed to last for six months (i.e., regarding its “durability”). This doesn’t deter me, since other billboards (which is essentially what this is, a moving billboard) are often installed for only a short amount of time.
  3. The commercial printing product is coated for durability (scratch resistance), but it’s also coated to be antimicrobial. You really can’t say this about the original, unprinted black conveyor belt it covers.
  4. According to research, customers seem to love the new look since it is colorful and engaging.
  5. It’s new. Apparently no one has done this before.
  6. The specific physical design (having one end of the printed advertisement attached to the other end in an endless loop and then also having it bonded to the underlying black conveyor belt) makes it stay put and not come loose.

I did not look closely with a 12-power printer’s loupe when my fiancee and I saw the printed conveyor belt at the specialty grocer, but given the look of the product in the website video, I would venture to say that it was inkjet printed on a roll-fed inkjet printer and then coated for scratch resistance and cleanliness. Apparently, it also comes with cleaning liquid to make it both pristine again (after regular use) and sanitary again.

A Medical Office’s Digital Signage

Another captive audience includes patients at a doctor’s office or dentist’s office. In addition to posters on doctors’ examination room walls selling pharmaceuticals, there is a trend now toward digital signage and/or videos. In my dentist’s office waiting room, for instance, there is a short video in which chimpanzees discuss dental self-care. What makes this effective is twofold. When you’re waiting to see the dentist, you have relatively few sources of visual stimulation, so the large-monitor digital-signage/video along with its soundtrack will catch your attention. This visual/audio center of the waiting room can be very persuasive. And this is the goal of advertising.

The second reason it’s effective is that it repeats in an endless loop. Ask any hypnotist just how effective repetition can be.

From the point of view of a marketer, the doctor’s or dentist’s office provides multiple opportunities for advertising creative. The posters in the examination room provide distraction for the patient awaiting a medical examination. In many cases these posters focus on pharmaceuticals the patient may request or the doctor may offer. But when these are paired with brochures scattered among the waiting room magazines and the visual and auditory stimulation of the digital signage, a coherent marketing message can be presented. In fact, I’m surprised my dentist has not yet included QR codes in his promotional literature, although he does text me both before and then after my appointment (for feedback), and his office assistant does call to remind me of the appointment. So you can add my cellphone to the digital signage and printed posters and literature, for a comprehensive, targeted media blitz.

A Near-Field Communication Poster

Finally, the same technology that allows you to tap a chip-enabled credit card against a cash register reader and transfer your payment information, NFC (near-field communication) technology can also enable you to touch a poster with a hand-held device, like a cellphone, and have a NFC chip in the large format print poster link you to further information about a product or service.

What makes this useful is its short range. Unlike Bluetooth-enabled devices, NFC technology only works within about four inches. This makes it convenient for a marketer to link a large format print poster or other marketing tool (in a fixed location) with your (or another prospective customer’s) cellphone. And it also ensures more secure communications.

The Takeaway

In many if not most of these cases, the effectiveness of the advertising is based on cross-media promotion, in which multiple technologies are used together to enhance the effectiveness of both (or all of them) in communicating a single marketing message.

It’s called synergy. Everything works together—if your marketing guru has thought this through and has ensured a seamless transition from one technology (and device) to another. And together everything works better than the sum of the individual, component parts.

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