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 The taxonomy was out of date.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: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset Management. I’m Hendesirik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Mike Bevans.
Mike, how are you?
Mike Bevans: I’m good. How are you doing?
Henrik de Gyor: Good. Mike, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Mike Bevans: I’m currently the senior digital asset manager at The College Board, but I’ve been involved with large-scale digital collection since 1998 when I was a digitization specialist at Cornell’s Fine Art Museum. It was one of the first large-scale digitization efforts in the country, and it became kind of a model for subsequent digitization projects. In any one of these large-scale projects, of course, you have asset management concerns because you have your whole workflow that has to be designed. Granted, this was back before people were talking about digital workflows. It was actually kind of the birth of the thought process of digital workflows, getting from the camera through editing and creating an archive and creating derivatives, so that was actually my first exposure to asset management.
From there, I went on to work with other cultural institutions dealing with other large collections and in each one of these projects, there’s a lot of money being spent on equipment and personnel, and all of these were not-for-profits so they really had to justify their expense. The best way to justify their return on investment was through repeatability, quality, and efficiency. I think these same principals apply to asset management as well, being able to have high-quality metadata, for example, being able to apply it on a repeatable basis or on a consistent basis, and of course efficiency so that you’re not spending all of your time tagging and searching. You’re actually producing work.
Henrik de Gyor: Great. Mike, how does a nonprofit organization focused around education use Digital Asset Management?
Mike Bevans: Well, the College Board publishes materials year round to help students achieve a college degree. We maintain over 120 websites. We produce training videos for teachers and counselors. We publish all kinds of printed material from postcards, flyers, brochures, all the way up to publishing books like curriculum frameworks. We’re really constantly churning out products, let’s say. We also host several national conventions every year, national and regional conventions, so we’re producing materials for that, marketing materials. We’re also producing trade show installations, so entire conferences, entire conference halls or lecture halls. We have an archive of over 120 marketing photos, and I just checked this morning, and I think we’re around 10 to 15 terabits of video footage. All of this goes back to about 2008. Because we’re working in a cyclical environment around the school year, we’re constantly refreshing our library. We’re constantly archiving and creating new materials. I just got back from our latest photo shoot, so I’m about to once again overhaul our active collection of photographs.
Henrik de Gyor: What are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with Digital Asset Management?
Mike Bevans: I just migrated our legacy photo library to more modern cloud-based asset management system that integrates with our production, our design production, and it was really kind of a revelation for us since I was looking at asset management tools to realize that our assets weren’t just our photographs that we were using and materials we were producing, but actually the materials we were producing are our more valuable assets. Until now, working in a design environment, we would get a task to produce a book or a flyer or something, and as soon as it was done, it went off to print. We considered that done, and the digital files would just be saved on a file server, and that’s where they would sit until next year when they would say, “Oh, we need to update this brochure, this flyer, this book.” Then we’d have to go back into the file server and find it.
We have all of our designers working in a Mac environment and our file server’s a PC, and the Macs for some reason can’t index those files, so it makes searching and finding things difficult for the designers. When we started looking at asset management systems and we saw that these could be integrated with our production, we got very excited, but that, of course, brings up what I think is the biggest challenge, which is getting users to change behavior, to adopt new systems, because you learn one way of doing things, and it may not be the most efficient way, but that’s the way you know, so when somebody comes along with a change, managing that change is actually very challenging. At the same time, the biggest success that I see in asset management is when the users actually start to adopt those changes and start to realize efficiencies and start to come up with new ways of making their work better, faster, and more efficient. On the one hand, I would say user behavior is the biggest challenge. It is also the biggest success.
Henrik de Gyor: Right. What advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
Mike Bevans: One of the lessons I learned was early one, back in 1998, was to establish a good foundation so that you can be flexible to try new things and not to be afraid to make mistakes. If you have a good foundation that you can fall back onto, you have a lot more freedom. For example, when I started working with College Board, just like any large collection in a production environment, the question grows kind of organically, and asset management becomes a necessity. It’s almost an afterthought. You end up with, when I came in we had multiple files with multiples of the same file with different file names, derivatives with different file names that didn’t match the originals, and then originals that were duplicated in multiple places in different sets of collections.
The first thing I had to do was bring all of the originals together and then try to find some order to them. We also had, you know, as I looked through the keyword tags, we had over 8,000 different unique keywords that were not applied consistently throughout. If you were going to search our photo library, it would be luck if you found anything. For example, we had multiple misspellings in our keywords, so we would have one keyword that had 10 different spellings, and that doesn’t help you if you have an exact match keyword search. The next thing it had to do after gathering all that data together, threw out all of the old tags and established a new hierarchical tagging system that again, this way it would be consistent throughout the entire collection. It was very efficient to apply because it was a much more limited set of terms and then basically only applied them to the derivatives that I made from the new gathered originals. Everything had to fall in line with a single naming convention.
There’s a lot of different foundational steps that went into building a good collection and then when it came time to migrate, it was actually very easy because the foundation was in place. We could spend more time working on new production techniques rather than trying to migrate messy data from one system into a new system. Again, my advice would be make a good solid foundation based upon the principles of findability, and you’ll have freedom to expand in other directions.
Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about digital asset management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with David Iscove. David, how are you?
David Iscove: I’m good, thanks, Henrik. How are you?
Henrik: Great. David, how are you involved with digital asset management?
David: I started in the video game industry, organizing undervalued audio assets of original master recordings for the Guitar Hero franchise. From there, I moved over to direct and reorganized the physical archives of a major music label. Then started focusing my efforts on optimizing digitally born content through production process for that same label, with the ultimate goal being discoverability and accessibility of all assets through the archives phase.
Henrik: How does a global music leader use digital asset management?
David: [01:00] The financial backbone of any creative organization is the exploitation of its intellectual property. Similar to a manufacturing facility in the most respectful way possible, the organization needs to produce content at a rapid rate in order to compete and keep up with market demand. In the case of the global enterprise with multiple subsidiaries, visibility of the products output by various groups is essential for the overall efficiency and cost savings of the parent. You can’t work in a siloed environment without incurring some form of redundancy or unnecessary expense.
[02:00] With an enterprise level DAM, we can partition the workflow of each subsidiary to satisfy the privacy that each demands while also assuring accountability for all assets as a whole and serving up select assets to other groups as required. Also, by incorporating a DAM with production capabilities, the goal is to utilize it as the repository as early on in the production process. Not only after the active market life cycle of an asset. If this is embraced, there’s an ease of flow between the front line creative production teams and the long term archiving of that asset, which is usually managed by a separate group.
Henrik: David, what are the biggest challenges and successes you’ve seen with digital asset management?
David: [03:00] Challenges: getting people to dedicate the time to shift their focus over to a new platform. Unfortunately a lot of production is handled via offline or disconnected communication tools, either via email or file transfer applications or even personal storage accounts. There’s so much risk associated with working this way but the processes have been established over time and so people are comfortable operating within that chaos. Adoption requires fully embracing the use of new systems. There’s definitely a period of transition in where people feel uncomfortable and confused by the new workflow, but I can’t stress enough, it’s temporary. The deeper you dive, the easier it becomes. This is true for any system or new workflow. It’s just about convincing creatives to find the time to shift their thinking. Once you get through that growth period, you never look back. You can clearly see the holes in the old way of working, and you find efficiencies come quickly.
Henrik: David, what advice would you like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM professionals?
David: Try to stay system agnostic as much as possible. If you can, technology will be adopted more readily. There’s something really interesting about the DAM space. Maybe this applies to software and hardware in general. People are so passionate about one platform over the other. They get emotionally tied to a particular brand or company. The client needs to make a selection. So much in fighting and pride can delay the eventual roll out. Most modern DAM systems offer very similar features. Instead of pushing one particular platform because it has certain bells and whistles, really listen to the needs of the organization and cater your recommendations to satisfy those needs. Don’t try to sell something outside of a client’s workflow.
[04:00] In general, do try to make recommendations of tools that consolidate assets over their entire life cycle in order to avoid migration or transfers to additional platforms. Any movement of an asset introduces risks, whether that be compatibility of fidelity or meta data. Obviously some risk can’t be avoided. Assets are meant to be experienced and consumed, so they need to move and be shared, even if it’s only with the eventual Martian overlords that intercolonize Earth in 200 years.