First, let’s run down the list of common beliefs about DAM systems in 2019 that we’ll be digging into:
1. Enterprise DAM is a hopeless idea that never has and never will work. Silos are just too hard to bust through. This has all too often been true historically. But must it be forever so?
2. Ephemeral content has only ephemeral value. If our latest Facebook ad is hyper personalized and contextualized, what’s the point of keeping it around?
3. Imagery is the key content type in DAM. How many DAM demos have you seen that show a big grid of pictures? I think we’ve been looking at image grids for so long that the idea is almost interchangeable with DAM. But not for long!
4. DAM is all about getting and holding assets. To be fair, I think most folks would agree with this idea became outmoded and unfashionable a few years ago already, but there is further change afoot in the scope of DAM that I want to bring to your attention.
5. I’ve heard from a lot of DAM users and implementers that auto-tagging is a gimmick, so AI doesn’t really have a role in DAM. Is it time to reconsider?
6. Legacy DAM will strangle your ability to innovate and change; the only escape is to a department-by-department approach. Company after company has told us that the first part of that is true–but does that necessarily mean the second part is too?
So let’s dive in!
Content silos are just too hard to bust through.
“Enterprise DAM is a hopeless idea.”
This is a totally understandable point of view, gained through hard-won, Sisyphean experience. So many of us have personal war stories of working hard to gain alignment on goals, standardizing taxonomies and vocabularies of content, and doing training after training and outreach after outreach to gain adoption across organizational boundaries. Some of us–a smaller number, but many, to be sure–have stories of some successes, too.
But usually these are only partial or short-lived wins, our successes arrested, watered down, or reversed by the next reorg, leadership change, acquisition or divestiture. So it’s completely understandable that many have abandoned or downsized their ambitions for true, end-to-end, enterprise digital asset management.
But there are forces now helping make the imperative of silo-busting more and more critical, and more realistic as well.
The primacy of customer experience
We’ve all heard over and over that customer experience has become the most important differentiator for all kinds of businesses. McKinsey, Gartner, Forrester, and the rest of the analyst community all say it. In order to realize a vision of seamless customer experience, the whole organization has to play as a team. Every department–from design, development, creative, marketing, sales, and support–must be able to access and use consistent content, in the context of data and systems that are relevant to them.
DAM use cases go beyond marketing
Forrester’s Digital Asset Management Vendor Landscape in 2007 included a Venn diagram showing DAM use cases across media & production, enterprise, and marketing. Real Story Group, another analyst firm, has a taxonomy of thirteen different DAM use cases, of which only five are brand and marketing asset management.
The good news is that the most modern and advanced DAMs on the market today allow companies to benefit from content across the enterprise – being able to search, find, work with, and publish content – without having to migrate all the content into one system. That last sentence is crucial, because it’s where every historical effort has stalled.
Today, the most enlightened enterprises often start with a goal of content and data consolidation and system migration, but discover along the way that the 3, 10, or 100 different content repositories across their organization all have unique data models, integrations into specific business processes and other applications, and users invested in them, which makes actually shutting those systems down very, very challenging. But the pain is much, much lower with a global system that lets those systems continue to run as long as the organization requires, alongside a global DAM that provides a great user experience and full access to all the content.
The new capabilities that make this possible are being developed primarily through APIs.
Connect your systems through APIs
APIs are the means by which different applications talk to one another, and they’re pretty much like a rocket-powered unicorn that lets content jump over silos. :-)
As of spring 2019, ChiefMartech reported that the number of marketing technology vendors had grown north of 7,000 vendors from just 150 in 2011. You can take this as a rough indication of the vastly increasing complexity of companies’ marketing stacks. This means that the idea of solving your content challenges with monolithic suites is increasingly implausible.
Luckily, the availability and maturity of “unicorn” APIs across the points of integration that need to tie into DAMs is improving all the time, making it increasingly viable and indeed easy to connect all those applications together.
According to the 2017 State of API Integration Report, the number of APIs has grown 758% since 2010.
So between new DAM capabilities that make it easier to meet multiple use cases in the same system, and better and better connectivity through APIs, the enterprise DAM vision of content free of departmental constraints is finally becoming a reality.
Ephemeral content has only ephemeral value.
After all, if our latest Facebook ad is hyperpersonalized and contextualized, what’s the point of keeping it around?
It turns out that just because content is ephemeral, that doesn’t mean it’s value is short-lived. This is tied very closely to the importance of programmatic content creation I talked about earlier. But before we dig into the nature of ephemeral content, let’s look at traditional content first.
Historically, content was carefully curated and created, expensive, and long-lasting, like the famous Baz Luhrman campaign featuring Nicole Kidman for Chanel. It’s beautiful; take a three minute break and enjoy it!
When you have a relatively small number of high value content pieces, like TV commercials or show episodes, it’s somewhat manageable to rely on spreadsheets and the tribal knowledge of your team to keep track of your content, find it down the road, and manually work through processes like securing usage rights. And if it costs tens to hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to create a piece of content, the cost of that management effort is a relative pittance. It’s obviously not ideal, but it’s not impossible, either.
Once your marketing campaign is over, the value of the content you’ve created diminishes significantly, except perhaps as inspiration for a new campaign. So your value curve looks something likes this: a long period over which you’re capturing value, but a quick drop.
Most of the eyeballs today are shifting to more ephemeral content
Social, mobile, in the moment, highly personalized, not as broadly applicable over a long period and a wide audience. Let’s take a tour through some market stats.
In the US alone, all the growth in media consumption is in digital:
And this isn’t just a US trend of course. In China, internet consumption as a percent of total media consumption grew from 30% to over 50% over the last few years.
And on a global basis, this year ad spend online is expected to exceed TV – of course, ad spend is a lagging indicator of where consumer attention is.
The only way to deliver so much more content is with the more programmatic approach. And when you design content for remixing, it’s by definition much more reusable. So even if the same exact execution doesn’t surface again and again, variations on it will. That means you’ll get more value out of the content you create over time, even if each piece is less valuable than before, as shown below.
But of course to reuse content, it needs to be stored, found, and easily recombined into something new. If that sounds like a job for a DAM system, you’re right! So start saving your ephemeral content!
Imagery is a key content type in Digital Asset Management.
Historically, imagery has been the key content type in Digital Asset Manegement. How many DAM demos have you seen that show a big grid of pictures? There are even some DAM vendors whose names are synonyms for “image” (I’ll let you guess which ones I have in mind). I think we’ve been looking at image grids for so long that the idea is almost interchangeable with DAM. But not for long!
Video is clearly the future of content.
So much so that on a Facebook investor call earlier, Mark Zuckerberg said:
I see video as a megatrend, on the same order as mobile.
If you just think back to your life before and after smartphones, it hits you quickly just how big a shift this will be.
But where is all the video going? For too many companies we talk to, the answer is: not into the DAM system. One of our customers, a leading brand companies told me:
We use the DAM to manage campaign imagery and archives, but we’re afraid to put our video content into it. We think it will fall over if we try.
And I’ve heard similar sentiments from many others.
But with the shift of consumer attention, and thus advertising and marketing budgets, to video content, this attitude will very soon mark the DAM system, and its advocates, as irrelevant.
Don’t let this happen to you!
Instead, what you’re seeing now, and will see more of over the course of the next year, is increasing functionality in DAM systems. That doesn’t mean MAM systems go away – there are too many unique workflows, equipment integrations, codecs, and so forth that are critical to broadcasters and their ilk, but from a corporate perspective, any DAM system worth its salt will need to handle typical video formats and the workflows and integration points to be the engine of video marketing and advertising development, publishing, and measurement.
Of course, there’s a broader world beyond images and video, too. I didn’t touch on Indesign files, 360º product views, and many more.
DAM is all about GETTING and HOLDING assets.
To be fair I think most folks would agree this idea became outmoded and unfashionable a few years ago already, but there is further change afoot in the scope of DAM that I want to bring to your attention.
Let’s start by looking back to the beginning of Digital Asset Management.
DAM started out as a repository for final assets
Many companies and vendors never graduated from there (even when they know more is possible and desirable, they don’t always see how to get there).
The next wave of DAM, has been all about connecting to upstream collection and downstream distribution points. Think about upload portals, download portals, and connections to web content management (WCM) systems, social sites, and more.
Still plenty of innovation happening
It’s not over with, by any means. For example, most downstream systems like WCM’s have pretty rudimentary integrations that allow a page author in the WCM to open a panel and select assets from the DAM that are copied into the WCM, then served to the web through whatever mechanism that WCM uses. This means content is duplicated, and the performance of the content on the website – views, engagement, etc – is disconnected from the asset in the DAM. That’s both a waste of storage and a missed opportunity to understand asset performance in the context of all the other metadata available in the DAM system. How is one asset performing compared to the cost of creating it? Compared to assets from a different creator or agency? It’s really hard to answer questions like these if the chain of custody of the asset is broken.
A better integration would be one where the author in the WCM opens a panel and select assets from the DAM that are referenced by URL in the WCM, but published directly from the DAM to a content delivery network rather than replicated in the WCM. This means big storage savings, and more importantly, the DAM gets pinged every time the asset is served to a viewer, so performance is much easier to track.
An even more sophisticated integration would place a dynamic asset on the page in the WCM – when the page is loaded by a viewer, the WCM would search the DAM for the most appropriate asset given the context of the viewer – age, location, known preferences, session history, etc.
The product creative life cycle management
The biggest thrust of innovation in DAM today is in connecting the whole product creative life cycle.
If you think about the key work of many companies, it’s about introducing and marketing new products. While this has traditionally been the realm of systems like PLM, those systems are data-centric and asset light.
Accelerating and aligning this core business process requires enterprise systems that treat both data and content as first class citizens and can support everything from materials development to product design, sell-in, photoshoots and creative campaigns, and on to distribution, in close integration with systems like PLM, PIM, and MDM. This shift is necessary because the throughput of content is a major bottleneck to meeting ever-more nimble digitally-native competitors and ever-more-fickle consumer trends.
Read more about our Product Creative Life Cycle Management solution here.
Autotagging is a gimmick, so AI doesn’t really have a role in DAM.
Here, I’ll focus on the potential for one critical technology that’s sweeping the software world–artificial intelligence–to assist DAM users throughout the campaign lifecycle.
It’s true that there’s been a lot of hype about using artificial intelligence services to auto-tag images, and also a lot of folks throwing cold water on the idea. The truth is somewhere in the middle – there are some clear use cases where it can deliver a lot of value, like user generated content in volumes that are just too large to be tagged by humans. But for many specialized vocabularies, the general purpose public cloud services aren’t there yet, even though they’re getting better by the day. To really deliver business value from AI, you need to build models based on your own content and data. That’s been really difficult traditionally, but it’s getting easier.
But whatever your feeling about autotagging, machine learning and analytics can do so much more for your DAM efforts.
8 ways artificial intelligence could accelerate and simplify the asset lifecycle
For the sake of this example, let’s follow a simple campaign development process shown here:
1. Project creation: An intelligent system should take into account your historical performance on the steps of a creative process to suggest timeframes for deliverables. High performing people are usually also overconfident in their ability to hit deadlines – in fact, research shows your odds of hitting a deadline that you’re 90% confident you’ll hit are actually no better than even. Oops! Computers don’t suffer from cognitive bias, so they can help anchor our expectations to reality.
2. Photoshoot: If you’re working with an agency or freelancer that’s uploading content to your system, why do you have to go to the trouble of getting IT to grant them credentials and set up a dropfolder for them? Your system should be smart enough to connect their contact information to the relevant projects so they can use a generic hot folder and the system can autoroute that content to the right place
3. Search and shot selection: As a marketing manager reviewing uploaded content, you’ll find some content that really inspires. The DAM will suggest similar content from the repository you should also consider, keeping usage rights and permissions in mind of course.
4. Ad creative: As the creative production process gets underway, the DAM can help the creative manager assign retouching, layout, or other tasks with historical insight in mind – if you’re on a short deadline, for example, it can push content to folks on the team with the history of working most quickly.
5. Creative review & approval: Now it’s time to review content. For complex content, like a video that has a lot of brand placement, multiple cast members, voice over talent, music sources, and stock footage, the usage rights review can be very laborious. For other content, like a stock photo, it might be very simple. A smart DAM includes usage rights based on uploaded contracts, read by natural language processing algorithms, and mapped against the intended territory, media type, and dates of the campaign you’re working on to know what rights you have, or uses an integration to a rights management system. But this isn’t necessarily perfect, especially when the rights are complex. This is where AI comes in – by determining the level of complexity and risk, an AI-enabled DAM can route highly complex or risky content to human review while ensuring simpler content meets usage rights automatically, saving significant time and manual effort.
6. Marketing review & approval: Now our content is reviewed, approved, and live. Our celebrity spokesperson puts his foot in his mouth, precipitating a brand crisis. We have to scramble to figure out where all the content that he’s included in has been placed so we can quickly take it down or swap it out. A DAM with strong compound asset reporting should be able to identify where we’ve published assets that include this person, and integrated AI algorithms like Google Vision can further help us by using an image search to find all matching images on the public web. (Google Vision is primarily known for the AI task I promised not to mention again…did you know it will also crawl the web?)
7. Brand portal: We’ve also published content from the campaign to our brand portal for our retail partner’s use. When she searches the portal, we can provide additional appropriate content suggestions she may not have considered looking for.
8. Archiving: Finally, the campaign is over and we want to archive it. It’s expensive and unnecessary to keep all our campaigns in low-latency, ultra-high availability storage. Today, you might set a generic policy for tiering. For example, deciding to keep final production assets in medium-latency storage, and the work in progress file archive – content that’s useful for reusing a special effect, music track, or a cut scene – in lower availability, higher latency, and much less expensive storage. But maintaining such a policy, and getting it right, isn’t easy. A smart system can automatically look at usage patterns and identify the content that’s likely to be requested again. For example, when you kick off a spring photoshoot campaign, the system might elevate previous spring shoots from the lower tier storage to the higher tier, to make them more easily available for inspiration and reuse.
Legacy DAM will strangle your ability to innovate and change: a departmental approach is the only escape.
Company after company has told us that the first part of that is true–but does that necessarily mean the second part is too? In fact, what we’re seeing is a lot of interest in replacing legacy AND departmental systems. To understand why, we have to start by stepping 20 years back in time.
The promise of legacy DAM systems
The promise of DAM has been pretty consistent over the whole period from then to now: it’s been that you could unlock the value of your assets by having one place to collect them, from where everyone could find, transform, and distribute them.
Vendors promised to bring you control over your assets so people only used the right ones, to consolidate and simplify your creative process, to reduce the costs you spend creating or buying assets by making it easy to find and reuse what you already have, and to improve collaboration across the organization.
The reality of DAM has been something else, as this architecture from a major CPG illustrates.
For many large organizations, the DAM universe remains a mess. Assets are everywhere, multiple systems are connected in a spaghetti diagram they can’t untangle, keeping everything running is expensive, and change is really hard.
Consequently, many enterprises, where they can, have escaped legacy DAM systems, and taken a departmental approach, adopting simplistic off-the-shelf systems that aim to help specific departments.
There has to be a better way
What they may not realize is that they’re giving up on the larger organization’s needs to scale, collaborate across silos, and deliver the end to end experiences. A lot of users of departmental DAMs have come to this conclusion after giving those systems a try, and are now looking for a better path.
So now we’ve looked closely at 6 common beliefs in the DAM community whose time has come to be reconsidered, overthrown, discarded.
Are you ready for a new world of DAM? For a DAM system that reflects the reality of marketing and customer experience? If so – I hope you’ll reach out to learn more about how we can help! Or read the 2019 Gartner Market Guide for Digital Asset Management.