MEDIA: FORUM; Why agencies want papers to centralise colour repro work

Papers are resisting calls for them to use one repro house, Alasdair Reid says

Papers are resisting calls for them to use one repro house, Alasdair

Reid says



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

online.



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.’



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