What’s the Value of DAM? Let Me Tell You a Story…

    Digital asset managers often find themselves in the difficult situation of trying to explain or defend the arcane arts of DAM systems management to both business owners and asset creators. Business owners know they need DAM, but can have trouble justifying the resources to fully support it, let alone take it to the next level.

    But once the conversation turns to how we can support digital storytelling through integrated content management, we find that we can better align the role of DAM with the business vision. This is a better story to tell than droning on about the importance of metadata (and yes, metadata is still important!).

    Digital storytelling’s rise parallels the rapid rise in the digital world’s complexity, as well as the raised level of noise and competition for attention. Pushed in part by the social media revolution and by increased opportunities to interact with customers, brands and campaign managers have been struggling with “engagement” for the last few years. Digital storytelling is a way of more deeply engaging those audiences, and unlike traditional linear narrative (think books, theatre and movies), it offers many ways to involve the audience in interactive activities and multi-layered story worlds.

    For example, a movie or publishing franchise may have a combination of video, books, games, toys, live events and social media activities all under the umbrella of a single unified story theme. The digital assets required to manage such a complex and multi-dimensional campaign are often staggering in number. A colleague recently told me about an interactive campaign for a global soft drink brand that required the management of around 80,000 pieces of digital video — and the metadata needed to organize them!

    The Challenges of Internet 3.0

    Taking this kind of strategic approach to designing the narrative around brands and campaigns requires addressing the challenges and opportunities in the Internet 3.0 world. “Internet 3.0” is used here to encompass several emerging trends, including Web 3.0 (the semantic web, taxonomy/ontology, linked data, linked assets and content curation), integration of mobile devices, crossover connections between the virtual world and the physical world, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

    Transmedia storytelling” and “cross-platform distribution” have come into more common usage in the past few years in relation to the Internet 3.0 world. They are both important, but quite different from each other. Cross-platform distribution may mean that a particular video might be repurposed on the corporate website, a YouTube channel and Facebook account. With transmedia storytelling, a campaign spans across different, but complementary, media products. Transmedia always has one unified “storyworld,” but it may include many stories, forms and channels.

    A great example of transmedia storytelling is the now famous Chipotle Scarecrow story, deemed the most successful digital marketing campaign of last year. The video story and the popular soundtrack song (Fiona Apple’s remake of “Pure Imagination”) were repurposed and distributed on websites, YouTube, iTunes and social media, as well as a mobile device app. The mobile app included a multi-level game that picked up on several of the video’s farm and food themes. The company produced several behind-the-story videos to highlight Chipotle’s “food with integrity” brand message and tied it into the story of the company’s founder, who was appalled at factory farming practices and wanted to do something about it.

    The combination of well-crafted video story with other supporting transmedia elements created an immersive and interactive experience, while also positioning the brand as a hero against bad food practices. By sharing the video and playing the game, customers can share in the ideal of “food with integrity.” The company’s nonprofit foundation benefits from every iTunes download of the Fiona Apple song, creating an even stronger issues-oriented link to the business.
    That’s powerful strategic storytelling and an engaging customer experience. The story succeeded because it created a strong bond of shared values between the customer and the brand — it made it personal.

    In another taco-related story, Taco Bell launched their Doritos Locos Tacos product with a campaign that was supported by massive amounts of user generated content (UGC). Taco Bell now sells about 1 million Doritos Locos Tacos every day, based on a successful UGC-driven social media campaign on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, and including customer selfies displayed on a digital billboard in Times Square. They also use UGC assets in their advertising. UGC creates another challenge for digital asset managers.

    Meeting these challenges and taking advantage of the tremendous opportunities they bring, requires a level of cooperation, agility and technology systems support that surpasses the capacity of most organizations. Yet the amount of industry attention that these approaches are getting speaks to the urgency to get this right.

    This is where we might expect DAM to come in and save the day. But we actually need two key components within the organization: 1. the humans and 2. the supporting technology. The technology is important — even vital, given the growing number of media assets and amount of information associated with their usage. But no technology will magically make an organization capable of strategic storytelling. Cooperation and agility must be addressed through training and culture. Integrating the technology platforms with the organization’s creative talent to produce cost-effective quality outputs is a social process, as well as a technology challenge.

    Enter the Co-Creation Team

    We’ve talked about some of the challenges of integrating systems previously in Future Proofing Your Digital Assets. So assuming we’ve got our systems integrated sufficiently — our CMS and DAM/MAM and production/post-production systems integrated with our social media platforms, and our user-generated content, data and infographics, and our analytics — are we good? Not at all — we still need that vital human component.

    While technology integrations have hard benefits that are easier to quantify, the benefits of integrating human and systems resources may be more compelling. These include linking assets and people across departmental silos, vendors and agency partners. A unified platform also supports routinized collaboration and integrated work practices.

    We need to provide a unified vision and a storytelling team that knows how to use these tools together. This “co-creation team” should include all of the internal talent, vendors and other partners, who contribute to any project. It may include writers, producers, video and photography editors, DAM managers and post-production support. It should include support for website, social media and other distribution platforms. The DAM is an integral part of the “co-creation platform” supporting that team. It can ensure that the assets are sharable and findable, and that the rules for their usage are clear.

    Abigail Marks is the director of strategy and operations at OgilvyEntertainment, the lead branded and original entertainment content group of advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. Her group creates content across different, traditionally disconnected areas, in order to ensure that there is “a clear value exchange” for consumer attention.

    Traditionally, digital communications teams have worked separately from e-commerce, social media, etc. These lines are getting blurred between social, sales, and the consumer’s expectations. In the new environment of greater competition for attention, it is important to create materials that are shorter delivery, but still have deep content,” said Marks.

    DAM plays a central role in connecting these pieces across traditional divisions. Consistent curation and linkages between assets and systems is needed for co-creation teams to access and share digital assets, as well as to understand usage requirements. Production and distribution lifecycles need to be taken into account, including production/post-production, publishing and distribution platforms. According to Marks, “For DAM to be successful in the global environment, it needs to be searchable, accessible, and intuitively navigable. We have to make sure the metadata is complete, intelligible and translated for global access. Then we need to have methods for global assets to be used in local application.”

    As the opportunities for digital engagement become more complex, so do the assets and requirements for managing them. Caitlin Burns, business strategist and transmedia producer at Caitlin Burns & Associates, believes that “it’s important to bring the co-creation team together to make it work well,” or the work won’t be well-crafted or engaging. “Narrative approaches are impacting on brands in their advertising, marketing and communications, and the story is becoming more complex in order to stay relevant. It needs to be holistic … older approaches to campaigns are disconnected pieces, rather than a unified approach to the brand.”

    It is in this need to reconnect the pieces and tell a unified story that integrated DAM can make the difference. Brand and campaign managers feel an urgent need to avoid disconnected content offerings. They want to tell a unified story that leads to deeper engagement with their audience and customers. DAM professionals should align themselves with these interests by showing the value of integrated content management systems to support content production, story creation and distribution.

    But this requires more than simply integrating DAM into the content system mix. The magic comes from bringing the content, people and technology systems together in a strategic fashion. The system has to be socialized into the culture and work practices of the organization in order to be effective.

    This is the present and future of DAM. The successful DAM leader needs to tell this story so that management business owners can embrace and support this vital role, and show the benefits to content producers. The benefits include enterprise-level economic scale, as well as fewer mistakes or missed opportunities. That’s the whole enchilada.

    Originally published in August 2014 by CMSWire.com.

    About the Author

    Alex Struminger is an entrepreneur, technologist and digital media strategist. He works with diverse clients from large organizations to start-ups on content strategy, technology platforms and digital storytelling. He has been a speaker and guest lecturer at industry conferences, several United Nations agencies, the Asian Development Bank, the City University of New York’s Institute for Software Design and Development, the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce and the Rhode Island School of Design.

    His article on technology platform adoption “Socializing DAM” appeared in vol. 1,2 of the Journal of Digital Media Management. His two most recent articles on using technology to support digital storytelling, “Future Proofing Your Digital Assets” and “What’s the Value of DAM? Let Me Tell You a Story,” were published in the web magazine CMSWire.com. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AlexStruminger.

      Posted in digital media management, digital storytelling, knowledge management, narrative of design, Storytelling 3.0

      Future Proofing Your Digital Assets

        When it comes to supporting the current needs of digital content management, many organizations are considering whether it makes sense to substitute a one-size-fits-all enterprise solution for the various disconnected “best of breed” tools currently in use.

        In recent years, nearly everything has become a digital asset. Audio and video assets that used to be recorded, produced and archived on tape now need to be immediately available in a fluid digital form, searchable and with clear metadata describing origin, rights, versions and usage. Paper documents and files have been replaced by digital formats, including everything from payroll to publishing. Branded assets, artwork, print or online layout designs and photographic materials are all digital.

        While the lines are blurring between pure digital asset management (DAM), media asset management (MAM), library asset management (LAM), enterprise content management (ECM), web content management systems (WCMS) and other content management functions (round up the usual acronyms!), these distinctions are less important than the overall need for digital content owners to share, publish, repurpose and control their digital content.

        These systems have a number of specialized functions. They accomplish storage and archiving of assets, as well as findability of those assets. They also manage workflow, sharing of assets across departments and with partners, distribution to audience platforms, rights management, version management, localization support (for global organizations) and user permissions.

        Over the past decade, we have also seen the maturing and consolidation of number of enterprise content systems, which incorporate much needed functionality previously found only in specialized systems into single platform solutions. I have worked with several clients who wrestled with the apparent chaos of supporting numerous disparate systems, while at the same time needing a unified view of assets, data, workflows and resources.

        Can One Size Fit All?

        For both IT and content managers, the monolithic unified system can be quite attractive — the very idea that everything could be on one enterprise platform, providing transparency and sharability for organizational assets, is almost irresistible. However, the pain of disconnected systems is in many cases matched by the pain (and risk!) of migrating data and business-critical workflows to a new monolithic system.

        Famously, earlier this year it was announced that the BBC was forced to pull the plug on a monolithic content management system after nearly ten years work and £100m expenses — but there are plenty of other examples of expensive, over-budget and under-delivered (or undelivered) failures of the “grand systems project.”

        At the same time, there has been a parallel movement in the area of marketing and strategic communications for brands to consolidate their efforts and to tell a more coherent story across their initiatives. As audiences and customers have been empowered by social media and Web 2.0/3.0 platforms to easily access and share information from many different sources, brands find that they are losing control of their story. Previous approaches to brand storytelling, which were often short and single-dimensional, are no longer sufficient. A more sophisticated audience and customer base is now able to muster rich content across an increasingly flat and accessible information-scape.

        In order to support the need for more coherent and complex messaging, while also controlling costs, organizations are increasingly looking to integrated technology systems that can support collaboration and cross-platform content creation, and distribution. This need goes beyond merely repurposing content, because success depends upon the quality of the products and the user experience. Creating quality content and truly sharable assets often requires that creative teams have the right tools, as well as integrated platforms, in order to produce a quality product that can engage the more sophisticated and information-savvy consumer.

        According to Caitlin Burns of Starlight Runner Entertainment, a transmedia producer, the overall success and effectiveness of any organization’s digital storytelling initiative depends on the credibility of that story and how it’s presented. “Successful communication and campaign approaches need to take a more arts and crafts approach, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.”

        So we see that the interests of content owners, IT managers and the specialists who create and use the assets all share the need for a unified platform. But if the monolithic one-size-fits-all system is not the panacea, what’s the alternative?

        An API Solution from NPR

        Prior to his current position as VP of Digital Media at NPR, Zach Brand experienced the challenges of various monolithic systems projects. They seemed to take longer and be more expensive than they should have been, while often being a disappointment to the users of those systems. Perhaps, more importantly, they did not make the content and data they contained re-usable.

        At NPR, he took the approach of using the application interface (API) of existing systems, modifying where necessary, to allow existing systems to “talk to” one another, sharing content and data. While this has been an on-going process, addressing one or two systems at a time, the benefits have been quicker wins, lower risk and tangible results that keep the end users happy because they don’t have to compromise on content or workflow features, or change systems in most cases (occasionally a system that is not API accessible must be replaced with a compatible best-of-breed or open source solution).

        The result at NPR has been the gradual build-out of systems that support cross platform distribution, content sharing and reuse, and effective digital asset management. The API approach has also resulted in serendipitous opportunities for content reuse and distribution, including new opportunities for apps and content use among NPR’s content and station partners. As Zach points out,

        I think it is about future proofing your digital assets/content/data. Look at the devices and platforms that have emerged over the last decade, and then think about how the system you build will adapt to the needs of the next 5-10 years.”

        Of course, rolling your own APIs does not solve all interoperability challenges, especially when assets live in large enterprise repositories that require very specialized technical skills. Fortunately, there are other ways to allow legacy systems to talk to each other. For example, a previous client, a large global pharmaceutical company, took the approach of using a powerful search engine to connect to a number of legacy systems. Users could find and access assets through an intranet presentation layer. No need to migrate the data; and users are blissfully unaware of the actual content repository system!

        However, there are certainly times when it becomes apparent that an integration of existing systems would require as much effort as implementing a new system and migrating the data. I have even been involved with projects where a decision was made not to fully migrate legacy content, but to start fresh with the most recent content and migrate older assets incrementally, as needed. In fact, this option should be considered more often than it usually is. Not all assets are evergreen, or reusable. Usually the decision to go with a new system is driven by the inability of old systems to support reusable assets.

        In all cases, one should insure against future needs by considering both the flexibility of the solution and the impact on quality outputs. Assets themselves can be better future-proofed by consistent usage of metadata and controlled vocabularies — indeed, the metadata is often the hinge that interoperability and asset accessibility relies upon.

        But the future is here; and future success depends on ensuring that systems users have the tools they need to work collaboratively in a rapidly evolving communications environment. In this environment we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, so systems need to be flexible and content owners need to keep an athletic posture.

        Originally published by in October 2013 by CMSWire.com:

        About the Author

        Alex Struminger is principle at Struminger & Company, where he consults with clients and startups on Storytelling 3.0. He has been Senior Advisor on Strategic Internet Projects at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). His article on technology platform adoption “Socializing DAM” appeared in vol. 1,2 of the Journal of Digital Media Management. Follow Alex on Twitter: @AlexStruminger.

          Posted in digital media management, knowledge management, Storytelling 3.0

          Brands and Story: Essential DAM in Transmedia & Cross Platform Content Creation

            I’ll be moderating a panel in New York on October 7th about “Brands and Story” at the Createasphere Conference… I’m very excited about the topic and the terrific panelists we’ve got lined up!

            Here’s the description from the conference schedule:

            More than ever before, companies need solid DAM management in order to support the exciting, new creative opportunities that transmedia and cross platform storytelling and content creation provides. Hear the latest insights from top innovative creators and DAM specialists on how they’re engaging audiences and customers from both the creative and technical perspective. As DAM industry professionals, you’ll want to learn about how you can inspire your colleagues to think in new ways about media and asset usage in the marketing, media and entertainment industries.

            Abigail Marks, Director, Strategy & Operation, OgilvyEntertainment
            Caitlin Burns, Transmedia Producer, Writer, Starlight Runner Entertainment
            Harold Moss, Founder and Creative Director, FlickerLab
            Matt Doherty, Associate Director, Global Digital Creative & Strategy, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide
            Moderator: Alex Struminger, Senior Advisor on Internet Strategy, UNICEF, and Principal, Struminger & Company

            More to come on this, as I am sure there will be some terrific ideas, lessons and anecdotes from the panel and the conference. I will be doing a short podcast interview with Another DAM blog’s Henrik de Gyor. We will be talking about Storytelling 3.0 and the role of media asset management technology in transmedia storytelling, as well as a support platform for co-creation networks. Stay tuned… I will post a link to the podcast here when it is released.

              Posted in digital media management, digital storytelling, Storytelling 3.0
              Socializing DAM
              Sharing innovation in the organization
              The success of a digital asset management (DAM) or other collaborative technology platform depends upon system adoption within the organization. This article addresses the social aspect of system user adoption and maintains that ‘socializing’ a new technology is a key component to the long-term success of the project.

              The Journal of Digital Media Management, vol. 1,2 published by Henry Stewart Publications, London.
              Welcome to musings on digital storytelling, information architecture, the narrative of design, content and knowledge management, and the power of networks. If you are interested in getting in touch about any of the articles or ideas published here, please contact me through the "Contact" link in the menu at top of this page.

              My article "Socializing DAM" published in the Journal of Digital Media Management addresses the impact of social networks within the organization on technology projects. Please click on the "download the PDF" button to get a free copy.