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DAM: agile and effective

incremental assignments have come into the agency from existing clients.

"We can now develop the creative content for a local project and get it to market within a week to 10 days," Ross says, "at prices that are competitive with local vendors." The arrangement also allows clients the advantages of having the same agency handle their national and local efforts. Clients are also able to be more nimble in responding to the competitive pressures in their region.

Unified branding

TracyLocke is beginning to open up the ClearStory system to its clients, enabling them to reference existing work much more quickly. The next generation of the implementation is taking TracyLocke into the realm of online editing and print-on-demand capabilities, enabling users with no professional training to create printer-ready materials in a way that supports and furthers the brand.

Digital asset management helps ensure that companies maintain unified branding in their advertising.

"A goal for many advertisers today," says Susan Worthy, CEO of ClearStory, "is the notion of consolidating and standardizing branding, while making the content available across multiple programs and distribution channels." Digital asset management fits in by providing a central brand workspace with immediate access to content downstream—by sales, field marketing and distributors.

"Companies need to control the brand, maintaining quality while distributing quickly and cost-effectively," Worthy says.

Having one version of the brand truth is as important in managing marketing content as it is in managing other enterprise content such as reports and databases.

"Companies need one ‘golden master,' " Worthy continues, "from which each rendering is created. If a change is made, each rendition should be revised automatically." The rendered images may be in JPEG, PDF or other format, depending on how it is being distributed, but they should all link to the original.

The hardest part of developing a digital asset management system is not centralizing and digitizing the images, according to Worthy, but deciding how to describe the content and setting up a taxonomy. Considerable thought should be devoted to that step, because it will determine how effectively the system will function. For example, a user might want to find all approved photos for their regional market, taken by a particular photographer, for which the company still holds the digital rights. Unless the fields for metadata are set up carefully, the assets could be elusive.

DAM and ECM convergence

From a knowledge management point of view, one of the more interesting issues related to digital asset management (DAM) is how to integrate traditional enterprise content management (ECM) with digital assets. Several ECM vendors have entered the digital asset management space in recent years. For example, Open Text purchased Artesia Digital Group in 2004 to extend its functionality into DAM, and Interwoven purchased MediaBin in 2003. EMC, which has owned Documentum since 2003, developed a DAM solution that uses a service-oriented architecture (SOA).

At present, DAM and ECM remain largely distinct, with good reason. "The processes for creating and distributing media content are quite different from those around document management," points out Guy Hellier, VP for product management at Artesia. "The workflows, editing tools and nature of media content is different, and have warranted a specialized focus."

However, with the growth of usage by organizations whose primary focus is not media creation, the need to mesh ECM and DAM is increasing. Artesia's customer base is divided equally between media companies and other types of corporate users, and Hellier sees the potential for the latter to dominate within the next few years.

Among the obstacles to the convergence of DAM and ECM is the different level at which the two typically function.

"ECM is typically sponsored at a corporate level and driven by an IT organization," says Andrew Solop, president of Metaseed.net  and an expert in digital supply chains. "ECM's corporate focus can be at odds with DAM's departmental prioritization of media support."

Nevertheless, in settings where media creation is not the primary business, integrating digital media assets with other content becomes very desirable. Users would then be able to select approved images from a central repository and create, for example, a briefing that includes images, logos and other media elements, along with the text.

"In some cases," says Hellier, "the digital asset is not just a media object, but constitutes knowledge in and of itself." In such situations, the content of the asset may be indexed or handled as a record, and might best be treated as enterprise content.

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