Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Jan Delos Santos. How are you involved with the Digital Asset Management?
Jan Delos Santos: I’ve been involved with Digital Asset Management for over a decade now. Currently, I’m the digital asset manager for RPA, which is Rubin Postaer & Associates. Prior to my stint here, I’ve worked as the Digital Asset Management for Saatchi & Saatchi LA for two years. Prior to that, I was an art producer/digital asset manager at TBWA\CHIAT\DAY for about eight years. Really much of my experience has really been on the agency side of things. Back in 2003, when I first became involved with DAM, I was just starting out as an art producer and was responsible for commissioning various artists for the different campaigns that came through. The agency needed a way to keep track of these assets that were being produced, especially as the amount of digital files grew. Because I was one of the most tech-savvy members of the team, they pretty much charged me with creating the system. I worked with our internal IT department at that time to create an in-house solution.
I was hired by RPA to revamp the system they currently have and just develop their workflow processes for DAM. Prior to my arrival here, there wasn’t anyone devoted solely to the Digital Asset Management who understood the particular needs of an advertising agency. The system was basically being used as file storage. The taxonomy was out of date. There was no overall structure to the system. Since there was no clean ingestion workflow, many of the assets in the DAM were either incorrect or never even made it to the DAM. That’s been my challenge to leverage the technology already in place, to introduce some best practices, and to broaden the agency’s understanding of the benefits of having a DAM. Anytime you’re going through this type of DAM revamp, restructure, and expansion, it’s never a quick fix. It’s been really important to me, through this transition, to work nimbly and have flexibility, but at the same, stick to a well-thought-out roadmap for implementing the new processes, technologies, and operating procedures.
Henrik de Gyor: How does an independent advertising agency use Digital Asset Management?
Jan Delos Santos: As a creative agency, we’re responsible for generating many individual visual assets used. Even though we’re an independent agency, we still have to work with a number of different client partners that rely on the assets we create. Because we have so many different teams, clients, or client partners that need these assets, we use DAM to keep track of the product metadata, usage rights, and to distribute those assets across the network. In that may, being in an independent agency is not that different from working at other agencies. We run into similar issues and have similar needs, so standardizing our workflow and getting users to adopt the system is key. Much of my experience has been with the various automotive clients, so it’s vital that they DAM keeps track of the product information for the vehicles featured in the assets. What’s product correct for one model year could change in the next. Depending upon the nature of the marketing, users may need a vehicle with very specific options. By centralizing and keeping these assets on the DAM, it ensures that users are locating the correct image for their needs. Also, it helps to make the branding consistent across the different media channels, whether it’s print, digital, or social media.
Henrik de Gyor: Great. What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Jan Delos Santos: I think that although awareness is growing, I still find that many companies don’t understand what Digital Asset Management is and what the benefits are for having a DAM system in place, or if they have heard of DAM, they focus all their efforts solely on the technology when really there’s so much more to it than that. You can have the greatest technology in the world, but you still have to adapt it to your needs, especially as they change, and have people behind it to support, maintain, and grow the system. It’s not uncommon for a digital asset manager to be hired onto to clean up a previous situation. Often those responsible for creating the system don’t communicate clearly to all necessary holders involved, so no one utilizes the system either correctly or at all.
In one case, I had to cull down the required meta data fields from 140. After meeting with different stakeholders, I quickly realized that none of the users ingesting assets had the time nor were there a need for this huge set of data. I was able to pare it down to the essentials, and I reduced the number to 38. By doing this, it made the process significantly more efficient and made the option of this step less of a concern for others. Because I was focused on their needs and valued their input, those stakeholders became more willing to work with me and through me to solve future problems and eliminate future technical roadblocks.
I think that success for me happens as our user adoption grows. I love it when the light bulb clicks on for people when they work with their DAM and realize how it can make their work life easier. They’re no longer bogged down by spending so much time digging for files, and they can find what they need quickly and can move on to the more important stuff.
Henrik de Gyor: Great. Sounds like a great investment. What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Jan Delos Santos: As much as the industry is growing, I still think it’s a niche area that even some long-time agency veterans aren’t aware of. There’s certainly not a lot of information to new, prospective candidates unless they have been in this type of role previously. Most digital asset managers don’t start out as such, and they’re coming into the field from very diverse disciplines. I think that it’s important for someone aspiring to work in DAM to always be curious. You never know what experiences will help you along the way, so you have to be open to a variety of challenges. It’s not just learning about new innovations and technology. You have to be proactive and get to know your users and their needs. Also, never underestimate the value of the human part of DAM. The more you’re able to connect with people, the more successful you’ll be.
Henrik de Gyor: Great. Thanks, Jan.
Jan Delos Santos: Thanks for having me.