In 2011 long-time graphic designer David Hyams founded Talking Print - a company that provides audio and video implanted print services. Image Reports interviewed him a couple of years later, excited about the dynamism his services could bring to print and how they could stimulate new opportunities. Over the years Talking Print has grown significantly, with David now employing another two staff and turning over £900,000. But he’s still to crack large-format print. Why?
By Lesley Simpson
Print may talk - but not when it comes to large-format it seems. Is that a fair summary when it comes to the level of take-up you’ve had for your services from this sector?
Yes. Put bluntly, we’ve done nothing really with the large-format sector.
Is the ‘talking print’ message falling on deaf ears when it comes ‘selling’ the idea to large-format print companies – or is it something else, like them being unable to move the conversation forward with their potential clients?
I think it’s that people need to get their heads around how large-format print can actually use the type of integrated services we provide. Basically, we make print talk and sing.
We have really marketed our services by word of mouth and waited for people to knock on our door and say ‘hey, can you do this for us?’. And the thing is, if the creatives don’t know what can be achieved with sound and vision integrated into large-format print they’re not going to ask to do it. And perhaps the print supplier doesn’t know enough about possibilities either to pitch them to their clients.
So, have you been trying to get involved in the ‘creative’ conversation between large-format print companies and their clients about the possibilities of talking print over the years?
At the moment we sell to clients/brands direct, to agencies and to printers - albeit not large-format ones. Someone will come to us and say ‘we like the idea of putting a voiceover or a piece of music, or a video into a brochure - can you help us fulfil that?’ The conversation has never been ‘can we integrate it into a really enormous poster, or museum graphic’ or whatever. I know I’m reactionary rather than being pro-active and I have to admit that I myself have not pushed the conversation forward in the large-format space.
However, we are very high up on Google search listings - if someone just types in an online request for something like ‘video in print’, so it’s not like we aren’t visible.
Because I’ve been working in print for so long now I have a lot of contacts in the industry and I’m fairly well known as someone to come to if you want to do something whizzy - so in a way it’s odd that the large-format print community has not asked about our services because there is certainly scope.
To your mind, what needs to change then if ‘talking print’ is to make real noise in large-format print applications/markets?
I think it all has to start with the creative and them coming up with ideas. If they’re designing a poster, why not make it talk? Integrating screen technology is passé now, but integrating embedded sound technology is not - and it’s a lot cheaper.
We have a portfolio of integrated print technology, all of which is currently in small-format, but all of which could be used on a much larger scale.
I think the barriers that people perceive when it comes to large-format print is that it is often outside and viewed from afar. But we know that there are many more applications and situations where adding something like sound could make a real statement - and for really quite a small amount of money because the technology isn’t that expensive.
So, we could have a large-format poster on a wall with a ten-inch video screen inserted, where someone pushes a button and it activates. I’m not talking an expensive LED screen but a cheaper option - and we can supply just one if that’s the requirement. Or we can supply 100, whatever. The thing is it brings print to life, and that’s what needs to be pitched to clients.
The actual act of integrating the technology is a post-print job, but the thing is it needs to be planned for at the creative stage, which is why I say the creatives need to buy into the possibilities first. The problem is, they are so bound up in digital that they just don’t think about how they can make print more creative.
What about getting your message out via shows and events?
I’ve done a number of print shows, but the thing is the audiences are printers - and they go to print shows to look at machines primarily, and also, those that do listen to what I’ve got to say are not necessarily the best salespeople when it comes to selling the concept up the chain.
Partnering with printers to make a pitch is probably the most sensible way forward because I can provide samples, and usually that’s what gets the clients/creatives on board - it’s that touchy/feely thing. I’m happy to be white label and work with printers who would like me to go with them to meetings with creatives and discuss the possibilities of print that can talk, sing, light up… and to show examples of what can be achieved.
So have you got a marketing plan to specifically reach out into the large-format print space?
I haven’t. And I hold my hands up that I’ve not been very proactive, mainly because I’ve been kept busy with work coming into me from the small-format print side of things. But large-format is really a whole new, untapped market, and there are so many novel opportunities.
For instance, there is a photographer/video artist - who I can’t name yet - who made a printed wall display of his work and used our video units within that.
The thing is I’ve had a couple of conversation with large-format printers, who say, ‘wow, this is fantastic’, then things just fizzle out, and I guess that’s because the idea doesn’t get from them to the real creatives. When they are doing a POS job or something the possibility just doesn’t seem to be in the creative’s mind.
How do you manage to educate the right people then?
I guess it’s up to the companies to put something on the table in front of those responsible for the print purchasing, and saying ‘look, have you thought about this?’ It makes sense for me to get involved at that stage and show actual ideas, which is what I do in more conventional areas of print.
So when you are talking to those people about small-format does the conversation not ever naturally move on to possibilities that would involve large-format - eg exhibition graphics, museum work etc?
No! I often show an ‘innovation’ PowerPoint presentation showing work I’ve done recently - and as I say, these have been small-format - but a light doesn’t seem to go on and anyone think, ‘Ah, so I could incorporate those ideas in other areas of print that I am involved in’.
I don’t have the manpower to pitch to everyone so I tend to speak with those people who come to me. I understand it is a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation, but I’d be happy o get involved with large-format print companies who want to offer something novel and very bespoke. You can have a poster with a motion sensor that makes a light come on. You can make a phone call from pressing a button on a print. There are all sorts of interactive and attention grabbing possibilities, but it’s about needing to engage with the right people across the print industry and with their clients.