"Producing Perfect Point-of-Purchase Displays takes Coordination"
[Column #21, 9/96]

Point-of-Purchase: 64,000 Questions

Point-of-purchase materials have lots of applications, from simple wall posters to elaborate retail displays printed on unusual substrates, coated, diecut, glued and hung on a special support. Because of the wide range of applications, printing and finishing processes are equally broad, making it very important to choose a finisher who understands this unique industry. Here are some general pointers.

End use. The end use of a p-o-p display is key to determining appropriate printing and finishing specifications. The type of backing, substrate, laminate and glues are all dictated by end-use. For example, a p-o-p display destined for a fast-food restaurant, where it will be exposed to grease and subject to cleaning chemicals may require a laminate rather than UV coating. Another example might be a job that's to be displayed near bright lighting, in which case a clear matte coating would be a better choice to cut glare and enhance legibility and readability.

In short, you should draw on your finisher's knowledge and experience regarding decisions pertaining to environmental variables and p-o-p applications.

Substrates. An experienced p-o-p finisher will know the right backing for a given application. For example, a piece that's to be vacuum-formed, drilled, diecut, embossed and/or glued will require one type of backing, whereas, a piece that's intended for hanging, easel display or mounting to a wire display rack will indicate another kind of substrate. If your finishing house routinely works with the p-o-p market, it can help sort out details that impact finishing processes.

Equipment. The equipment your finishing house has also plays a role in successful and cost-efficient p-o-p production. For instance, if a job requires mounting and laminating a light-weight printed sheet onto a rigid backing, such as corrugated, foam-core or chip board, having the ability to machine-apply the sheet can substantially expedite production time and reduce costs. While most machines manufactured in the last ten or fifteen years can apply any kind of stock, some shops still run older equipment that has difficulty handling lighter and two-sided coated stocks.

Glues. Point-of-purchase materials usually require some type of gluing, which, in turn, influences a number of other decisions. You and your finisher need to share information about the substrate upon which the glue will be applied, since different substrates, glass, metal, paper, plastic, take very different adhesives. Also, depending on the equipment used, glue can be applied to either the sheet or the backing, as long as it's the smaller surface of the two.

An expert p-o-p finisher has several different adhesives in his arsenal, each with its own special characteristics. One range of glues is used to adhere or laminate, the printed sheet to the substrate. Another range of glues is used to afix the mounted display onto a wall, a display rack or even a window. Pressure sensitive tapes, which themselves use a range of adhesives, are another widely-used adhesive used to attach other pieces, such as pads, coupons or booklets, onto the main display. My company performs a lot of the latter kind of work. We have specialized machines that automatically attach pressure sensitive tapes, also referred to as d-tape, to coupon books, instructions, tear-off pads or wirebound booklets and then to the base. D-taping is widely used for plastic adhesion. Heavier displays may require pad backing, which is a large pad of the pressure sensitive adhesive that's applied to the base surface.

Inks and coatings. Printers who regularly work with the p-o-p market are well versed in how inks and coatings may interact with glues. For example, heavy top coats, including varnishes and UV coatings, can penetrate the printed stock, which may result in the sheet not properly adhering to the base when glue is applied. One way to avoid this is to use a heavier 80# to 100# stock. If dealt with early, the client can be advised to spend an extra ten or fifteen percent on paper costs rather than risk the job going south in finishing. Also, your finisher may be able to recommend an alternative glue, one which will work under the circumstances.

Inks play a role in p-o-p work when pieces are to be diecut. Printers familiar with the p-o-p market know that certain inks are better than others in their ability to cut cleanly without chipping.

Diecutting. Diecutting is to point-of-purchase as honey is to bees. Because diecutting is one of the more essential p-o-p processes, your finisher should have equipment that can cleanly cut through the broad range of substrates in a wide range of sizes, from life-size cutouts to board stock "slips" into which samples are displayed.

Here again, early involvement with your finisher is very important. We can help design and build models to make sure appropriate materials are used and dimensions are correct.

Fulfillment. Retail p-o-p often involves a substantial fulfillment component, where pieces are manufactured by many different vendors and then shipped for fulfillment operations. Sometimes there can be a large number of pieces, including banners, counter-top displays, toys, "take one" coupons as well as assembly and marketing instructions.

Many p-o-p displays are tied to holiday and other events promotions. Let's say McDonalds is launching a summer campaign to its franchisees that's tied in to a new animated movie release. A sample fulfillment package might include interior hanging cardboard cutouts of the animated characters, at-register displays, outdoor signage and posters.

If your finishing house is to perform fulfillment, all of these diverse elements must be collected, including the box into which they're all to be shipped, packaged and distributed to the franchisees by the deadline. Here again, equipment can play a role to ensure costs are kept down and jobs get out on time. For instance, there's specialized equipment that can automatically insert posters into tubes, eliminating the need for expensive hand work.

Finally, timely delivery is critical to p-o-p work. Since many p-o-p finishers are also responsible for shipping to distributors or franchises, stringent quality control is a requisite. Companies involved in p-o-p need to have a good, solid process improvement system in place; because a deadline missed in this industry can mean the loss of millions of dollars in lost opportunity.

We only have touched on a few considerations involved in point-of-purchase production. Obviously, many of the points I raised in earlier columns that dealt with the topics on glues, UV coating and varnishes and diecutting apply here as well. But if you have questions pertaining to a specific job, or think you may not know the right questions to ask, talk to your finisher. Working together, you'll be assured of perfect p-o-p pieces!