Papers are resisting calls for them to use one repro house, Alasdair
The introduction of run-of-paper colour was fraught with difficulties,
as anyone who can remember the launch of Today will testify. Eddy Shah’s
promises turned out to be empty and things were no less difficult when
bigger guns, such as the Daily Mirror, brought their colour presses
More often than not, the registration was out, the ads were blurred and
the pictures were an eyesore. Readers were confused; advertisers were
angry. With so many potential pitfalls in the colour business, the last
thing publishers wanted was problems with repro houses. They hoped
agencies would be able to deal with people who could be relied on.
Publishers usually have one preferred colour house and will not accept
work from any others. If an advertiser wants to run an ad across the
titles of three newspaper groups, the repro work has to be done three
times. Crazy? Advertisers certainly think so.
Last week the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers wrote to the
Newspaper Publishers Association to ask for the practice to be scrapped.
It argued that it is restrictive and needlessly costly. All of the top
repro houses can be relied on to meet the requirements of individual
publishers and advertisers now want to centralise their production
contracts so that they can achieve economies of scale.
Agencies are annoyed that talks have been dragging on for months, while
the publishers seem unprepared to admit there is a problem.
Tim Hannon, the creative services director of BMP DDB and chairman of
the IPA’s creative services committee, is disappointed by the stalemate.
‘Of course, there are cost implications,’ he says. ‘But we are also keen
to improve quality. We want to control more closely how the ad will look
and that isn’t easy when you have to use five different repro houses.
There is also a problem that, when a title will only use one supplier,
bottlenecks can build up.
‘We want to feel that the publishers and ourselves are colleagues and
there is a sense of co-operation. That isn’t happening.’
The advent of new digital scanning and storage technology may muddy the
water - and print quality - still further. Publishers argue that they
are all working to different specifications, which means that the new
technology that has been designed to simplify and speed up the colour
process will do nothing of the sort.
Agencies have approved 20 colour repro houses that meet top industry
standards. So can’t publishers recognise - and accept work from - this
list? Few of them are prepared to comment on the issue, but one - the
Guardian Media Group, which publishes the Guardian and Observer -
doesn’t find it a problem. Five months ago, it approved five repro
houses, and soon it could extend the list.
But Carolyn McCall, ad director of the Guardian and Observer, says she
can understand why other publishers are cautious. ‘Agencies are the
first to demand a refund if the end result doesn’t match their
expectations, but colour repro work is actually a very subjective
process,’ she comments. ‘Different repro houses produce very different
work and publishers all use different colour specifications.
‘It’s not unknown for repro houses to fail to understand this. Those
that do, sometimes fail to meet the specifications.
‘And when you have several different repro people, agencies start to
quibble when they are charged different amounts by each one. That can
cause its own problems. But, by and large, our new system has been
working and we will be reviewing it, so the list may be extended. But it
would be wrong to suggest this isn’t an issue any more. Anyone can set
up a repro house. The good ones are still rare.’