The holiday season is a time for marketing agency owners to take stock and plan for the future. As this whirlwind of a year begins to wind down, agencies can expect a surge of new 2022 campaign initiatives. Unfortunately, that means dealing with one item that is always in short supply: enough time to get things done!

The day-to-day schedule of a modern marketing agency is like living inside a pressure cooker. A client’s “meal” is cooked thoroughly in less time than if they did it themselves, but it’s not a pleasant experience for anyone inside. As a former ad agency manager once put it, “If I wasn’t willing to come in and work on Saturday, then I could forget about working on Sunday.”

One of the chief worries for modern agency owners is retaining the best people while still meeting the insatiable time demands of today’s multichannel market. The pressure builds with each new channel—from personalized print to social media to data-driven websites and mobile apps. Of course, each has its own set of excellent digital tools, but sometimes those very tools are part of the problem.

The Planning Paradox

Every marketing agency has various planning tools to select the product information they need and map out what a new campaign should include. Unfortunately, these tools are seldom connected with the data sources a client uses to track product details. In addition, their planning tools may provide the specs for a printed or online piece, but they rarely give the production designer a head start. As a result, each new piece must start from scratch, with the designer interpreting the marketing manager’s plans.

Unlike traditional planning tools, Comosoft LAGO entirely integrates with the client’s many data sources, including PIM systems, DAM systems, and pricing and inventory databases. LAGO’s whiteboarding function allows marketing managers and ad planners to select featured products based on margin, availability, and other relevant product information with each layout decision. After campaign planning, LAGO produces a layout within InDesign with all the PIM and DAM information in place as a starting point for the designer to finesse the final appearance.

The Data Dilemma

Adobe InDesign revolutionized the production of high-quality design and layout of the printed page. The problem is, InDesign can do more things than a single designer has time to do! For example, with retail and manufacturer catalogs, there are almost too many different content components to keep up with manually: PIM data, images, DAM descriptions, and so much more. A designer cannot hope to do an excellent job manually and still meet the crushing time demands of a complex catalog. In the past, marketing agency owners had to make some tough decisions. Either hire more designers (rarely an option) or sacrifice quality, accuracy, or both.

LAGO includes a powerful InDesign plugin, allowing entire “blocks” of product information to import all at once, including the necessary product information, images, and descriptions. It also provides a two-way connection with the PIM, DAM, and other data sources. So, catalog and circular ad layouts automatically update if information in those data sources change. In addition, if the designer makes changes that would affect the underlying data, an authorized manager is notified to review the change. Because this process automates a host of tedious, manual tasks, designers can focus purely on the design itself. As a result, there’s an overall reduction in labor costs, and designers can take on more projects.

The Versioning Vortex

If you thought a page designer’s life was stressful creating one catalog, imagine how much more it is when every store needs a customized version of that week’s catalog or circular ad! However, print is not the only stress multiplier. Websites and mobile apps also demand the same images and data, usually with even more frequency. As a result, agencies are at risk of not meeting the insatiable needs of their clients to fill every marketing channel with fresh, customized content.

One of LAGO’s most compelling features is its ability to create and track multiple versions of a single marketing piece. For example, it starts with the base version of a catalog or circular ad and then makes an unlimited number of regional or store-specific versions. Each version is driven by the company’s integrated data sources and planned by the regional marketing managers. Thus, a catalog version for stores in Maine could feature a sale on snow shovels while the Florida version could feature outdoor patio furniture—all using the same base layout. LAGO even allows the data used in a printed catalog or circular ad to automatically export to a mobile shopping app or other digital publishing channels.

The Revision Redaction

The traditional process for checking a marketing piece for accuracy and design quality is sending out a proof to the decision-makers, both within the agency and to the client. Although digital proofs (usually PDF files) have replaced hard copies, the review-and-approval process is still cumbersome and time-consuming. Online proofing systems do exist but generally are not integrated with the overall planning, data management, design, and production system.

Fortunately, the LAGO system provides just such a proofing solution. A designer can generate and submit an online proof at any point in the production process, routed to the appropriate decision-makers. Once notified by the system, they can review the piece in question, approve or add comments or instructions, and let the designer get back to doing their jobs. This efficient review and approval management process provides a clear audit trail, eliminates a major bottleneck, and dramatically improves the agency’s time-to-market for multichannel operations.

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Seeking a Sane Solution

Comosoft began working with PureRED, an Atlanta-based digital marketing agency in eleven U.S. cities. PureRED’s client, home improvement giant Lowe’s, struggled with the problems described above and needed a comprehensive data and production workflow solution. As detailed in a recent case study, PureRED was able to precisely do that (and much more) by implementing LAGO for the company’s multichannel campaigns.

The marketing production challenges facing agencies are not likely to abate any time soon. The opposite is true. For agency owners currently enduring the pressure cooker of multi-version, multichannel marketing campaigns, a truly integrated workflow solution offers relief—and the freedom to be truly creative. The production solution for marketing agencies is Comosoft LAGO.