DAM Champ: Bryan Cohen
DAM champ Bryan Cohen has 17 years of professional experience that spans supporting multiple channels including social media, newspapers, magazines, textbooks, web, and mobile. He’s managed the installation of several content management systems (CMS’) in addition to working in print/offset production with several large printing firms and has sales, support, and training experience.
Bryan’s formal education is in graphic design and electronic media. He holds a master’s degree in technology/graphic communication systems from Arizona State University, a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from The University of the Arts (Philadelphia, PA), and a bachelor’s degree in business and IT from Strayer University.
DAM champ: Someone who supports finding, setting up, or maintaining a digital asset management system (DAM). There is a wide variety of DAM champions, who come from positions in production, creative, management, IT, and marketing.
What is your role in supporting or organizing a digital asset management (DAM) project?
I really have two roles. My day job is ensuring that the operation of our digital material review and approval system [is smooth]. It’s essentially a CMS for all of our marketing materials, whether print or digital. My role is to make sure that the system is running smoothly every day, that it has the modifications that we need, and the change process — that it’s getting funneled up to the global team and it’s being implemented properly.
My other role is to look for…opportunities and technologies that can better organize and distribute the tens of thousands of assets that we acquire each year so that all of these marketing groups, the digital department, and the external agencies that we hire to create a lot of these materials can quickly get what they need and deploy them.
So I really have two roles. One is the day-to-day operation of the CMS, or we used to call it DAM — it’s more review and approval. And then also the opportunities to start socializing DAM in a variety of ways.
Explain a little bit about how you interact with digital assets during your workday.
You probably hear this a lot, but there are no two days that are the same thing. Each day is usually a mix of a whole bunch of things. Sometimes it’s handling technical issues or trying to accelerate a solution to an issue somebody’s having — they need access or don’t have the right role or permission and they’ve got to have it right away.
It can also be reporting and metrics gathering. We pay a lot of attention to how long it takes something to get through the approval process, and we try and reduce that amount of time as much as we can. So there are reports, there are technical issues, and there are enhancement requests. All of it really ties into the fact that, unlike a lot of DAM environments I’ve worked in in the past, the pharmaceutical industry is a very highly controlled environment due to federal regulations from the FDA.
The U.S. is really only one of a couple of countries worldwide that allows pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer to advertise directly to consumers. These two things combined — the fact that we are unusual from a global perspective as to what we can advertise, and we have a very high level of regulation from the FDA — [ensure] a lot of my time is spent making sure that not only our items but our digital asset system complies with our corporate guidelines and regulations that are driven by the FDA.
In a lot of cases, it might not matter much to people who touches what and when, and what changes they suggested be made, and what was actually made, and so forth. In our world, that means a tremendous amount, to the point where even certain things and images can’t be retouched because it might imply that a medication has an impact that it shouldn’t, or it might imply a certain medication applies toward a market that hasn’t been approved before.
Those little things are nuances that I had never encountered in DAM before, so it’s really interesting. Another one of the things we have to deal with is, I can’t take an image of, say, somebody who’s 35 years old and use it in an advertisement for a drug like Prevnar, because Prevnar is only approved for pediatric purposes as a vaccine or for adults 55 and over. So those little nuances, that’s something that most traditional publishing channels don’t have to deal with and we do.
Why is DAM important?
Well, it really depends on a person’s perspective. If you’re a senior executive, if you’re somewhere in the middle like I am, but I think we all so commonly hear the standard reasons why DAM is important. Most of the time you hear reasons like, wow, you can reuse assets you’ve already purchased, you can deliver quick detail on a variety of platforms and channels…understand how much your company is spending on images and adjust and whatever.
But for pharma at least, one of the big reasons that DAM is so important is the compliance and traceability like I mentioned before; the regulations that we have to deal with. The other thing is that — and I think this is a trend happening in a lot of spaces — we in this industry depend a lot on external agencies to create our content, then we put it through internal approval processes.
That’s nice because it makes it so we can go to agencies that have expertise in a lot of different areas when we’re doing a campaign, so it’s also a flexible workforce, but it makes us so we don’t have to build expertise; we can leverage expertise right there. It also means it’s difficult for us to trace where an asset has been used, what channels it’s been used in, how long we can use it, and all of those contractual agreements because the agencies are the ones that are really setting all that up.
Now, our problem can lead in all types of directions, like if I use a celebrity image in a piece past the contract date, we can be sued. If we use an asset in a wrong channel or the wrong region, we might have to pay a fine. If a model signed an agreement that their image could be used in a vaccine and suddenly that image gets used for an oncology medication, we could get sued. For pharma it goes well beyond just measuring what you spend, but where those things are going or resizing an image quickly.
For us it’s all about compliance in a global environment and being able to immediately see what the rights and permissions are for a particular image, or sound clip, or video, or piece, even if it’s text-based content, and know that we can use that without relying on any agency and paying an agency to tell us that.
What is your biggest challenge as a DAM champ?
I would say that my biggest challenge by far is getting other people to understand why DAM is worth it. And that sounds open, but understand that the pharmaceutical industry is unlike traditional media DAM users or environments. We don’t make money off the content we create.
You know, at Conde Nast, they need a DAM because the content inside the DAM is what they sell. They create a magazine, they have these photos, that’s the product that actually gives them revenue. Somebody’s buying that actual content, paying for that content. But in pharma, we sell medicine, we don’t sell content. Nobody’s buying a brochure that we develop, so getting people to understand the value that’s in a piece that they create and the asset that they’ve assembled after it’s already been created and is out there is, it’s not a language that most people in the industry understand.
They need to create pieces for campaigns, measure the effectiveness of the campaign, and then move on. Then, once a thing is created or an asset is assembled, there’s not much mind given to, well hey, I might be able to use that in a variety of different ways. So the traditional reasons why you need a DAM system, it’s a totally different language within pharmaceutical because it’s not something that they make money on.
You worked at a number of different places with marketing and digital technology. What were some of the common challenges you faced when encouraging users to adopt new technologies?
I think with any system or any platform there always seems to be three groups of users — those that love it, those that hate it, and those that just want to do their jobs and move on. The lovers are too few. The haters are the most vocal, and the workers who want to use the system…want to minimize their disruption in their daily life, have the system do what they need it to do with a minimum amount of clicks or waiting, and that way they can get on to whatever their job is.
The most common challenge I’ve seen in any industry with DAM is really to get as many lovers as possible, answer the questions or concerns from the haters before they even warm up their voice, and then deploy a system that is not only effective, but has really good training and really good support for the rest of the community — doing a continuous loop.
What advice would you give to people who are trying to get a DAM system in their organization?
The first thing I would say is never overestimate how much other people care about DAM. Chances are, although those people will see some value in DAM and they’ll nod their head at the benefits that you might say, you’re still competing for finite budget dollars against projects that probably have more return on investment.
So you have to think when you’re trying to get that big chunk of money to install or upgrade that DAM, you have to think about how you make your project more valuable to the executive signing off on that budget compared to a data center consolidation. You know, a data center consolidation is easy enough — I have this much process power, this much storage I need, this many servers. We’re going to move it to this platform at this place and save x-amount of dollars.
If you’re competing against that kind of thing with sort of nebulous concept of, well, we might be able to resume this or that, the problem is they have vendors and consultants that throw out all kinds of potential savings calculations in the materials, but most of them are completely bunk.
The only way that a DAM system wins over a comparative project is for you tie it into things that executives care about the most. The problem for them isn’t creating or reusing content, especially now. The problem is we have too much, right. What an executive wants to know is, where am I spending money unnecessarily. And that’s why something like metrics can’t be understated. There’s John Wanamaker, the Philadelphia merchant, and a lot of people would say the father of marketing and advertising. He once said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
If you can position your DAM in a way where you can be instructing the executives that it’s going to help them identify which half the money is wasted, then that’s a huge benefit. And the only way that you can do that is by tying it to metrics and analytics.