The combination of marketing agency, digital agency, print and fulfilment into a single entity is an enticing prospect and something that has been tried a number of times over the years. And in pretty much every case the entity has failed. The business ends up as a hydra headed beast with mouths and heads all wanting to be fed. Taming such a beast has been all but impossible.
But perhaps now the pendulum is swinging in this direction. As print runs collapse, as the technology becomes deskilled, as commoditisation dominates, there are multiple reasons for printers to join forces with agencies specialising in digital, in marketing and design. There are reasons too for the creatives to forge stronger, even shareholder, links with printers. End customers whether brands or retail understand the importance of creating and delivering a consistent message across all and any platforms. Success in coming years will be about innovation, impact and individualisation. Printers can provide the knowledge required for the realisation of this goal through understanding of papers, varnishes, foils, binding and so on. Tactile is the new digital.
A few printers already thrive on such partnerships, revelling in an expertise and a reputation for delivering the unexpected. Many more companies can and should be looking at how to sell themselves in this way. Printers may need to swallow their pride and play second fiddle instead of lead violin in the orchestra needed to deliver the most effective campaigns for the ultimate client, because apart from a few instances, they do not have the necessary relationships. But they can and should be much more intimate with those that do.