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The Art of Digital Asset Management

The ability to push out assets while still controlling the content is appealing to publishers. "Many publishers do not want to put their content in the hands of sales partners," says Steve Sauder, CTO of North Plains. "Our new Distribution Broker, an innovative feature addition to the TeleScope platform, manages automation for repurposing. Once a book is published, Distribution Broker takes the content, converts it to almost any format and distributes it wherever it needs to go."

North Plains’ Digimark tracks all the digital rights that go along with every asset. "The difficult part is tracking usage back to the original source once the asset is out of the system," says Sauder. "But with e-books showing increasing uptake, this feature will become progressively more important."

Pet food

Rolf C. Hagen is the largest privately held pet supply manufacturer and distributor in the world, operating in 30 markets globally. With products in seven categories ranging from aquatic to dogs, cats and reptiles, R.C. Hagen has an ongoing need to create, store and modify digital assets used in advertisements and other collateral. After trying some techniques in house for managing digital assets, R.C. Hagen realized it needed more sophisticated tools that incorporated metadata and hierarchies to share information, both internally and with its retail partners. In addition, the assets must be localized for use in different regions, a requirement that mandated a reliable method for workflow.

R.C. Hagen selected ActiveMedia from ClearStory Systems based on multiple factors including cost, usability and the ability to incorporate a robust workflow component in the future.

"During the first phase of our implementation, we moved digital assets into the ActiveMedia repository from other locations," says Kosta Nicolopoulos, director of global marketing and category management at R.C. Hagen. The repository is used by retailers and distributors who want to prepare advertisements for promotional campaigns or to create catalogs. Marketing staff use the digital assets to develop brochures and other collateral. Users access the repository via a permission-based Web site.

A taxonomy was set up to provide a hierarchy that matches R.C. Hagen’s inventory system, making searching for assets easy. In addition, branding is consistent, images can be found quickly and converted to whatever format is needed, and the latest version of an image is always available. As a result, materials can be developed rapidly that correctly reflect R.C. Hagen’s product mix, tailored to the local market.

In comparison to the previous method of distributing images, which entailed burning them on CDs and sending them via FedEx (fedex.com), ActiveMedia is vastly superior. "We had one employee spending 60 percent of his time just finding images and making CDs," Nicolopoulos says. "Now, about 99 percent of our images are accessed via the Web, which, of course, has saved time and money."

The availability of a workflow feature was an important part of the decision to select ClearStory’s ActiveMedia. "We intend to use the workflow when we develop the artwork and review the text," continues Nicolopoulos. Most of the packaging is multilingual, with anywhere from three to nine languages on the same package.

"We need to review not just grammar and vocabulary in the text," says Nicolopoulos, "but also the regulatory aspects, because we offer many food products that are affected by the laws of the countries in which we are selling them."

With ActiveMedia, R.C. Hagen will be able to move files around the world quickly and efficiently, saving time and money, and reducing errors. The artwork and text will be reviewed by the company’s marketing departments in various countries, and modified as needed. The ActiveMedia interface itself is offered in multiple languages, which will be helpful in regions where English is less commonly spoken.

ClearStory has responded to customer demand by providing enhanced workflow tools that automate the review and approval of content, as well as the delivery of content, through events and notifications.

"Notifications can be as simple as letting a manager know that an image has been uploaded," says Bill Sheeran, VP of product management and marketing at ClearStory, "or more complex, such as letting another application know that a piece of content has reached a particular state in a repository, such as an expiration date."

ActiveMedia can provide notifications from within the application or outside it. Users who do not log in much sometimes prefer to be notified of an event (such as an asset’s being ready for approval) by an e-mail, rather than from within ActiveMedia. The appearance of an asset in a drop box within ActiveMedia can set off an automated chain of review requests, delivered in a variety of ways.

Reducing time-to-market translates quickly into dollars. "One of our customers is managing 22 brands of pharmaceuticals with ActiveMedia, and reported that every six days saved in getting a product to market produces an extra million dollars in profit," says Sheeran. "It’s a very strong business case."

Flexible, hosted DAM

Application Arts offers a hosted digital asset management (DAM) service and production services to render original files into formats for print and online use. The hosted applications reflect various levels of complexity:

  • FileMaker required file sharing of digital assets on an ad hoc basis. The hosted site mimics the corporate look and feel, and lists product images by product category. The system has improved access to sales channels and international offices.
  • Intuit wanted to see a large amount of information on a screen that looked like the spreadsheet the company previously used. Data includes SKU number, packaging size and more. Retailers, who use the images for promotions, see only those products that they carry rather than the entire inventory.
  • Sun Microsystems needed a role-based site with tight control of user access. Application Arts worked with Sun to develop customized roles and a workflow that enforces the processes Sun desired. The new system allowed Sun to replace a warehouse containing collateral with a print-on-demand approach that provides timely production.

"Each system is custom developed," says Robert Cugini, president of Application Arts, "so that the company’s specific issues are addressed." Application Arts also provides support such as creation of 3-D images and other services.

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