March 22, 2016


The Fun Bits ›

The magic little collateral code


Do you produce multiple collateral pieces for campaigns? If so, how do you keep track of the collateral to ensure each piece is delivered to its correct location and in the correct quantity?

Picture this campaign...

You are preparing artwork for a new retail promotion. There will be 15 different print items required, from posters to shelf wobblers to window graphics. These 15 different items need to be distributed to 60 retail shops around the country. Different stores will get different items, and the quantites will differ between the stores. Can you feel a headache starting to build?

Working out the logistics for this campaign (printing, sorting, picking, packing and delivering) might be easier if each piece was radically different in look, size or shape. All you'd need to do would be to describe the item (e.g. "A3 blue poster" or "Small round diecut").

What happens if two posters have exactly the same artwork but differ in size by 10mm (due to two different display frame sizes in the stores)? Or, what if two posters were exactly the same size, but each had different small print text? Do you think there could be a high chance of error during the pick-pack process?

One effective solution is to ensure that a small "collateral code" appears somewhere on your artwork. 




A collateral code can be any alpha-numeric combination that you like. It may include a job number and collateral number (especially if a piece of collateral repeats regularly). Ideally the code should be as short as possible.

The size of the code should be small enough that it does not detract from the main artwork, but large enough that it is easily seen by those sorting and packing the collateral.

A good position for the code is in the bottom right corner. Make sure the code is in a bit from the trim, just in case the guillotining is slightly off. Wherever you choose to locate the code, consistency of placement - across all collateral - is helpful.

The code should ideally be in a bold font, to help with readability. This is especially important for large format digital pieces where the screen resolution is more coarse and fine fonts more difficult to read.



Think about these potential consequences of not coding your collateral:

  • Stores receive incorrect collateral items.
  • Stores receive incorrect quantities of the items.
  • It won't be feasible to recall all deliveries to find out which ones are incorrect, so you have to wait to hear from each store, or have to contact each store to request a delivery count.
  • For stores with incorrect (or missing) items you may have to do a reprint - and one-off, small print runs will be expensive.
  • Apologies to your client will need to be made, and discounts may need to be given.
  • Repeat issues in this area could lead to the loss of your client.

If you are not already doing so, adding in a teeny tiny, unique collateral code could be both a game-changer (for your agency) and bacon-saver (for you). It's a small solution for a big gain!



Sarah Ritchie
Sarah Ritchie


Sarah Ritchie is the founder of AM-Insider - a website bursting with tips, tricks and resources to create account management superstars in the advertising, design, PR, experiential and print industries. Sarah has been involved in account management for 25 years and has a passion for encouraging, mentoring and helping others succeed.

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