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Another DAM Podcast interview with Mark Leslie on Digital Asset Management

Transcript:

Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor.

Today, I’m speaking with Mark Leslie.

Mark, how are you?

Mark Leslie: I’m wonderful. How about yourself, how are you doing today?

Henrik de Gyor: Great. Mark, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Mark Leslie: I’ve been in the graphic design space for just a little bit over 20 years now. And I go all the way back to when working even in a small design shop or an ad agency, how you would complete a project and things would get archived of onto a floppy or a zip disk, and you wanted to be able to locate those things after the fact. So building some kind of an index or having some kind of a cataloging program where at least you could find things that were offline was very important. Just as things have progressed in my career, and I’ve worked in larger volume environments, that DAM has become more and more important. That’s what DAM is all about right?

Find what you’re looking for, find the exact file at the right time, and the longer we go and the more digital anything that we have, the more important it is to be able to put your finger directly on something. Another thing that I’ve done in the last couple of years with DAM is being more involved in the community itself where I’ve been a speaker, a presenter a couple of times for Henry Stewart. DAM is an excellent opportunity, especially for companies that are looking at a challenge that they are not sure how to solve, it’s a great place to start. And I’ve also spoken and done a case study presentation at Adobe Summit this past spring. Just writing articles, and blog posts and spending a lot of time thinking about what this space can do, where we are right now, and what’s coming next.

Henrik de Gyor: Mark, how does one of the largest sportswear manufacturers use Digital Asset Management?

Mark Leslie: Well basically our company was responsible for apparel and headwear. A lot of it was for what we call licensed properties or a professional sport. So it’s things worn by the fans to celebrate their teams. And even at times, authentic apparel worn on the field. The way our DAM was used is basically as a collaboration platform throughout our product creation process, end to end. It basically sorts out into two large buckets. On one side you have the kind of technical specification documents that drive our manufacturing processes, and on the other side you have product photography. So all these things that get provided to retail partners and business to business that allow demand creation, and we literally would see it on a retailer’s website or in a print ad.

So we’re basically looking at that in a way, kind of almost like a closed circuit TV. It’s not necessarily driving any kind of public visibility, it does downstream of us, but we’re providing all that content and generating all that content so that it can be used to drive a couple of processes. I’ll tell you one of the things about DAM that we picked up early on in my time with the company that was actually a great side effect of DAM. For one professional sports league, we were putting together presentation boards that would serve a couple of purposes. One would be to take any given style and show for that product season what it would look like in all teams, and then we would have another type of presentation that would say, “For this team,” these are all the styles that are offered in the season and how they would all look together as a collection.

And we were new to our DAM implementation at that time, this was many years ago. There was something about that process, which by the way was entirely manual. So we were taking images from DAM and placing them into a document, and doing this by hand, things would be stable, and it would be great, and you’d come back maybe a week or two later and something about the way those images were being placed that it just wasn’t being honored. So we ended up having to recreate those documents several times during that season. It didn’t affect our ability to deliver. We still hit all of our deadlines, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, “There’s got to be a better way.” So as a result coming out of that, we did internal development for automation tools and client-side automation that was able to eventually assist creation of all of those technical documents that go out to the factories. It was able to populate pages and catalogs that we used for our sales and marketing materials, and all those things are very, very embedded in the environment.

It’s something that when you’re working at scale, you worry about how long something takes, even if it’s just a short amount of time, you’re doing it a lot of times. And when you do something a lot, is there a way to not have to do it manually? And that was a great learning coming out of having a very powerful DAM at our disposal. I’ll give you an example of some of things that we in addition to the product photography and the technical specification documents that we save in the DAM, we also, because we’re dealing with professional sports leagues and teams, we have a lot of partner identity or logo information that’s stored in there as well. That’s used by all of the design and production teams to go through, pull out what they need as a raw material or a source image to start a design or to complete work on a design.

So there’s a lot of that information stored in there as well. And to put some numbers around things, if you think just in terms of the product photography, every week there’s something between 2500 and 4500 new product photos generated that all come into the DAM, need to have the proper meta-data associated with them, they need to be reviewed and approved and be pushed off to where they can be published and available to our downstream audience, to our retail partners. So a lot of files moving through that system. And if it wasn’t for DAM I just don’t know at that volume how we would be able to accomplish what we do.

Henrik de Gyor: What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?

Mark Leslie: I think one of the biggest challenges is looking at DAM … let’s say that you’ve got an established platform and you know what your capabilities are, there will come the time where your challenged with … the DAM will enable us to do, say fill in the blank, this example. And what that may require is some kind of sweeping change in the way that the business process is conducted or at least just the way that steps the order that work is done. Sometimes it can eliminate steps, it can eliminate several steps in a process. You might actually even be able to automate a large chunk of the work. But it’s being able to raise that awareness and to get the business to commit to the significant change that might have to happen in order to get that payback on the other side.

And just that human element of being able to walk everybody through that landscape and help them to understand. Another thing that’s a challenge is being able to look at the type of assets that are generated throughout a full life cycle of something. Let me step back and talk about full lifecycle. There is an originally an idea for something that’s going to be eventually created as an asset. Someone somewhere says, “You know what I need? I need a visual that is,” again fill in the blank. Somebody writes a creative brief, there is a marketing plan, whatever it is, something creates the need for an asset. Assets just don’t show up on their own. Somebody asked for it, there was a need, there was an ask.

So from the moment that that work begins on that asset, it’s life cycle has started. And all the way out the point where it gets used for the last time, those are the two goal posts. And in between that is the full life cycle of the asset. The temptation can be a lot of times for a business process to combine several things together into a document and you end up with maybe the need later to try to extract things back out of that document because you need just this piece or just this element. And you can actually stop that from being a problem if you go back and say, “What are the kind of things that typically we might extract now, and is there a way to save that as a component or an element so that I could just pull that up on-demand?” And even better, it’s not me pulling it up on-demand, it’s an automated process pulling that up on demand and providing it for whatever the appropriate situation is. As far as a success with DAM.

There was a period here a couple years back where we had been in a previous DAM platform for many years. The need had come to modernize. So we went through the process of evaluating what was available in the market, vendor selection and all of that stuff. But knowing that we were such a high volume art operation, we basically had to … it’s kind of like doing engine work on a helicopter while it’s flying. We had to continue being able to fly, we had to continue to deliver product. We could not stop, land and wait. And we went through that process even though we had a very tight timeline, we were able to extract an export what we needed from the old system to configure the new system, bring the assets in and get up and running with very little disruption in the business. And I would consider that to be a very large success.

Henrik de Gyor: And what advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?

Mark Leslie: I think the biggest thing about wanting to get into this space, and it may not just apply to DAM but it certainly applies directly to DAM, is that you want to be curious. Your curiosity and wanting to know how things work, and wanting to know why things are a certain way, and then asking more questions after that will take you a long way. Because, one of the temptations especially when you’re dealing with technology or a software platform, is to look at features, or to say, “Oh that, shiny.” And you want to be able to take advantage of what you see, “Oh, imagine what we could do with that tool” That’s actually the 180 degrees from where you need to be. First of all, you really need to understand your business. You need to understand where those assets come from, how they get brought into being, what’s being done to them throughout their life cycle, and who the audience is downstream, who needs access, who shouldn’t have access? And if you understand the business, the next step is to say, “Now what’s the problem that we’re trying to solve?”

And if you really understand the business, you ask a lot of questions because you’re curious, and you’ve looked at the key problems that you want to be able to solve, and what it’s going to look like when they are solved, then kind of figure out what technology solutions fit into that to make that happen is easy. If you go about it the other way it’s going to be very hard and it’s probably not going to work very well. So if you’re a curious person, and you ask a lot of questions and you use the discoveries from those questions to drive you to new discoveries, you’re already set up.

Henrik de Gyor: Well thanks, Mark.

Mark Leslie: Thank you.

Henrik de Gyor: For more on this, visit anotherdampodcast.com. If you have any comments or questions, please send me an email at anotherdamblog@gmail.com. Thanks again.


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NYC DAM Meetup on Digital Asset Management, Artificial Intelligence and Automation

On August 24, NYC DAM Meetup organized a panel discussion on Digital Asset Management, AI and Automation with the following panelists:

Kristin Shevis – Chief Customer Officer, Clarifai

Brea Tremblay – Content Strategy, Viacom

Mark Milstein – Managing Director, Microstock Solutions

Moderated by Henrik de Gyor

Below is a link to the unedited audio recording (Duration: 1 hour 5 minutes):

Download MP3 audio recording


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Another DAM Podcast interview with Nick Felder on Digital Asset Management

Transcript:

Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m speaking with Nick Felder. Nick, how are you?

Nick Felder:  I’m good, I’m good. Great to be here.

Henrik de Gyor:  How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?

Nick Felder: I’m probably a very non-traditional, adherent proponent, advocate of digital asset management. My background is production. Here, at Coca-Cola, I’m the global head of film and music production for the entire enterprise, all territories and all brands. I really come at it from a user standpoint of the person in charge of making the stuff that’ll go into the DAM, and also the person who would use the stuff that he would take out. I’m kind of coming at it from a much more practical standpoint.

I do not have an IT background. I do not have a technical background. I’ve learned a boatload about both of those along the way. That’s how I found my way into this space in really helping the company globally, Coca-Cola globally, move forward, digitize its processes and get on capable platforms that can be deployed worldwide, right? We’re not looking at Europe has one, North America has another, South America has a third, you know, an individual company in South America has a fourth, that kind of thing. Keeping us all in the same platform.

Henrik de Gyor: Nick, how does the world’s largest beverage company use Digital Asset Management?

Nick Felder: It’s a really good question, because it has evolved over the years. Our first foray into digital asset management was mostly about distribution and getting assets from one part of the world to another. I should say probably the single word that describes the strategy, really underlines everything we do, is reuse. It’s all about reuse for us. Reuse of work is where the productivity comes from, where the efficiency comes from, where the speed to market comes from and that goes across all brands, all channels, all methodologies really. Everything needs to turn into everything. That is the mantra we use around here.

If I take a still image that was originally intended for out of home and it ends up on my phone, it may end up being a digital image or at least being distributed on a digital platform, but that doesn’t change what it is. Inherently, it is still an image with rights, if there are people in it, frames, resolution, this kind of thing. That mantra of reuse really, really is the main thing, if not the only thing, the company is really looking for in doing that. That means distribution globally, all media, movie media, still image media, audio and interactive, that means being able to do that with rights management components.

Parallel to the DAM system, we have a global rights management system where we’re able to pay, actually extend the usage rights of any work that got made anywhere in the world, so that any other market, anywhere in the world, can reuse it if it wants to. We’ve got a way of paying those rights’ holders reliably in their currency, in their market, globally. Actually unlocking that was really the key, the hidden key, to standing up a viable enterprise-wide DAM platform. It’s got to be transactional. People are going to reuse stuff around the world. Once they can reuse it, they always need to adapt it.

As they adapt it, change out their packaging, change out their logos, change out their branding, however they need to tag it before they put it on air, because that’s where the rubber hits the road, and then reloading that adapted version back into the DAM, so we have a parent-child structure set up to accommodate that. Everything gets associated with the initial core created unit that was made. Probably the last piece I’ll add to that, in the reuse thing is … The other piece of reuse is not just reusing the thing as the thing it was made for, so again if I made a piece of out at home and it gets adapted, another market to be reused as more out of home, that’s fine.

I think if we approach this stuff more … If we tag it and bag it, right, going into the DAM, we can reuse it more like a commodity. Footage, images, audio, it’s really just a commodity. We try to think of it like lumber, where you can remake anything out of it that you want. Here’s some footage of a Coke and meals, that’s interesting. You’re really just looking for some beach … A still image for a beach thing that you’re doing on a web-related platform. If you can … If that moving footage was captured and stored at a high enough resolution, and there is indeed a beach shot while you’re eating food in the Coke and meals spot on the beach, you can still it. You can grab it. You can reframe it, and then you can reuse that image however you want. You can even frame out the people, don’t get involved with rights issues.

It’s all that reuse for what I described initially, and then the last piece is really approaching it like a commodity. That commodity aspect has been mind-bending for a lot of associates around the world. Our agencies tend to understand it much better when we direct them to the DAM and say, “Go look for this. Go look for that. You can find the images you need to stand up whatever application, microsite, whatever social conversation you’re trying to put forward.” Just being able to approach it like a commodity has just provided a lot of freedom.

Henrik de Gyor: It sounds like reuse is the main way to get the maximum return on investment to your point.

Nick Felder: That’s the ROI. That’s the only ROI that I’m really judged on here and so far, so good. Fingers crossed.

Henrik de Gyor: Excellent. Nick, what are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?

Nick Felder: Wow. You know, it’s also a really good question. To be incredibly practical and non-BS about it, I think, at the end of the day, it really all boils down to the user experience. At no point, at least in my travels and really in everybody I’ve ever spoken to, at no point will you ever be in a position to get senior management or budget holders to dive into the details the way you need to dive into the details, and work out all the parameters that need to be worked out for the thing to work. Authentication, permissions, etc, etc, etc, all that stuff that makes it work the way it does, people are just going to look at it like “does search work?” If I put in some terms and I get some awesome results, excellent. It works.

If I put in terms and I get wildly results, or conflicting results or all the rest of it, it doesn’t work and thumbs down. As far as successes, I mean it’s one of those things where like all the homework that … It’s like good comedy. Actually that’s a better metaphor. Doesn’t matter how much research you do, doesn’t matter where you set the location, who you cast, all the rest of that, it’s did I laugh? If you laughed, then it’s funny. If you don’t laugh, it’s not funny and it’s really that way for digital asset management as well, at least in my experience.

The main challenge is always the return on investment. I described ours previously as reuse. That may not be, and I actually know in a lot of the markets, that’s not necessarily the ROI that people are after but that’s certainly ours. I think just being clear, it’s not complicated. Man, I’ve seen some cases studies where things get so involved and you can just tell there were like three, five different consultants brought in. The language is confused. The outcome is confused. The measurement and the metrics are confused. Keep it simple, keep it tight. Give yourself an easy to judge against premise to the point where even if the numbers don’t necessarily add up, everybody can feel it in their gut, right? That things are moving forward, that things are now happening reliably, consistently and that use is growing amongst whatever your user groups are.

Clear, simple, easy to understand ROI. I think a lot of times, budget holders and super senior management, I’m going to use a bad word here, but see a lot of ‘bullshitery’ around technology that goes this deep, because it’s not familiar to them. They feel like they might be being hoodwinked. If you can keep it in common, normal, or regular, plebeian language, English or whatever your native tongue is, just keep it simple. You can go a lot further towards winning people’s hearts. Avoid corporate speak, avoid tech speak. Just keep it real, and you can go a lot further. I broke my pencil trying to stand up a few versions of DAM before I got my first one off the ground, so I can speak to that pain firsthand.

Henrik de Gyor: What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?

Nick Felder:  I’ll talk to the aspirationals first. I would say probably the easiest, again things that I learned the hard way, which is that, from my experience here, it’s not all about senior management sponsorship. That’s a piece of it, and it’s not all about massive consensus on the worker bee level. You need both. If I can give any advice to anybody trying to get into this space or struggling in this space, it’s to work both those angles at the same time.

Presentations, videos, messages, experientials, hands-on trial, whatever you need to do for senior management, and the same thing probably couched very, very differently, so strategic messaging for seniors and much more tactical, demonstrable, how this will make your day better kind of messaging for the worker bees. Working from the bottom up and the top down, so that there is a mix of strategic messaging and tactical messaging, strategic benefits and tactical benefits that are clearly being demonstrated in parallel, I think that’s the path. One will always point to the other and say, “Yeah. That’s all great. That’s awesome up at 30,000 feet but how does it really … Where does the rubber meet the road? How does it really work?”

If you figure out really how does it work, you’re going to get the exact opposite. That’s awesome, but what’s the strategic play here for bringing the country or the region, the territory, if not the planet, together onto a single platform. Approach both, and I think you probably have your, simultaneously, and you probably have your best chance for success, your best chance for winning.

Advice to existing DAM professionals, this with a smile, I’m not sure I can give much. I think most DAM professionals have probably struggled through a very, very, very long road. They already know where they are. Sometimes there’s not a lot of talking to them and, again I say that with a smile, I’m barely a DAM professional coming from the production side. I would simply say some of the developments in the last 18 months in the industry, going towards semantic graph databases and, yeah, neural networks and machine learning, all the buzz words that we’re hearing around the industry right now, but there’s real stuff in there that can toss out real, tangible benefits that were almost science-fiction four and five years ago.

It’s like, “Yeah, that’s nice. That’s just not happening in the real world in my lifetime.” Lo and behold, it’s happening and that’s great, at a consumer, or rather at a commercial grade level, and that’s great. Just stay on top of your tech.

Henrik de Gyor: Thanks, Nick.

Nick Felder: Yeah, thank you. Thank you very much.

Henrik de Gyor: For more on this, visit anotherDAMpodcast.com. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to email me at anotherDAMblog@gmail.com. Thanks again.