Every so often, the fax machine rings and we sometimes look at it thinking “who in the heck is faxing us?” I’m not too sure why we still have one, but it’s a reminder of days gone by when business was conducted by fax. Early in my career, our office had multiple fax machines which would ring throughout the day, spitting out that rolled up shiny-looking paper which displayed purchase orders, credit applications, contracts, and yes, the occasional “fax broadcast” marketing a product or service. Today, ours sits relatively idle while emails, texts, social media messages, and other forms of communication take over.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sad that the reign of the fax is over, but when I see a page sitting on the machine, it sometimes causes me to think about other ways things have changed over the course of my career.
It also makes me realize that to be in this industry, you have to love looking forward, learning the next new thing, and embrace change. If not, you become irrelevant like the fax machine. As I consider these things, I always like to take the opportunity to reminisce a little – about things we once loved and thought we couldn’t live without, and of ways we did things that would never happen today. It’s a fun trip down memory lane for those of us who have been around a while, and a lesson for our younger colleagues that what you’re used to today will change, so be ready. Stroll with me, please, as I point out some of the highlights of my marketing days of yesteryear ….
When Scott and I were first married, I worked at an ad agency that did a great deal of direct mail work for a large national membership association and various credit card and cell phone companies. So we printed a lot of stuff. And in the mid-90s, that meant that we proofed a lot of stuff in several different forms which we were checking for different things – the folding, the registration, the color matching … the list goes on. You name it, we were proofing for it. It was all in hard copy, and on strict deadlines. I (not-so) fondly recall couriers bringing Fed-Ex packages with proofs to my house at all hours of the night, sitting on my couch watching sitcoms or late night TV as I combed through the proofs to ensure the beauty and integrity of each component of the direct mail pieces. We took it seriously, and that’s how it was done. I’d sign off, send the courier to the airport so my client would have proofs first thing the next morning. There was no widely used form of email, and heck, even if there was email there would be no way to have transmitted these files back then.
Then, in the late 90s, this thing called “digital printing” was introduced to the agency. We had no idea what we’d do without all our proofs. What was this thing called a PDF, and how would it ensure that our color, registration, cropping, folds and everything else would be OK? After all, we were printing MILLIONS of pieces of mail at a time!
Oh how things have changed! Now we rely on digital printing (and PDF proofs) for speed, ability to economically print smaller quantities, personalize messages, and more. Sure, sometimes we still do hard copy proofs and traditional press jobs (and press checks, which is a-whole-nother story), but the vast majority of our work today lives in the digital age.
Camera-Ready Artwork and Ad Slicks
While the term is still around today, it refers more to the artwork’s format in that it’s digital and ready to be printed. Yet that wasn’t the case when I first started in this industry. Designers used to mock up their layouts and use a specific type of camera process to, in essence, take a photo of the layout and use the film from the photograph for the printing process. I wasn’t on the job for too long before this type of process went by the way-side, but it’s interesting to think of how it used to be done.
Ad Slicks were closely related to the idea of camera ready art. The artwork was printed on glossy, bright white paper, provided in several sizes or versions depending on what a particular publication needed. I supposed that glossy, bright white paper (hence the term “slick”) facilitated in the camera part of the process. To this day, we’ll hear clients as for their ad slicks which now just means we send them the files.
Stuffing Envelopes and Mailing Press Releases
Yes, it used to be standard practice to print hard copies of press releases, head shots, and any other information you needed your target media to have, and send it all out in the mail. Usually that meant some poor intern licking hundreds of envelopes, picking up photographs (or running to the closest one-hour developing shop) and hauling boxes of mail to the post office.
The Old “Bacon’s Books”
How did we build media lists prior to the days of online media databases? Bacon’s! They were the standard source of media information for a long time. I recall getting our shipments and being so excited to see what new information and contacts we had access to. Bacon’s books were huge, green tomes (much larger than the largest yellow pages you could imagine) that were well worn, marked up, book marked, and dog-eared by the time the year was up. We used the heck out of those things. Now, it’s all about logging in, doing a search, exporting information electronically, and of course, still doing the old school PR thing – RESEARCH! You still have to make sure you have the right people on the list, learn what they write about, and tailor your pitches. I don’t foresee that ever going away.
Technology will always be changing. Over the course of my career, we’ve gone from huge personal organizers and bag phones to palm pilots and cell phones, to today, a time in which our mobile device carries most of our business and personal life within it. Plus, there are communication and social media platforms, computer capabilities, apps that are ever-evolving, and more access to people and information than we’ve ever had in the past. As PR and marketing professionals, we always have to be ready, and watching for the next evolution, and consider where new technologies can take us and our clients.
I invite you to take a stroll down your own memory lane, and share your list of practices and things you’ve seen evolve or go away over the course of your career. Is there anything you miss? What were you glad to say good-bye to? And, let’s look to the future! What do you wish you had that would make your life and job easier? Looking forward to hearing your stories!