DAM Champ: Jason Gould
DAM champ Jason Gould is the creative operations manager at L.L.Bean. He supports broad development of key tools and processes, including digital asset management (DAM), web content management, self-service, scheduling, and calendaring solutions.
DAM champ: Someone who supports finding, setting up, or maintaining a digital asset management system (DAM). There is a wide variety in DAM champions, who come from positions in production, creative, management, IT, and marketing.
What is your role in supporting and organizing digital asset management?
My role deals closely with creative operations efficiency rather than tactical digital asset management. Within the creative department, we have a DAM team to manage all of our assets, and my role is to make sure that the DAM system is optimized to support the operations of the creative floor. We want to make sure we get the right assets to the creative team to expose the right products across all channels in the most efficient, productive, and cost-efficient manner.
We consider both photography assets and copy assets as part of what we put into our DAM system. We want to be able to expose all of the correct product information and imagery across the web and in our catalogs and retail stores.
Explain a little more about how you interact with digital assets in your average workday?
The DAM team that I work with is largely responsible for receiving the raw photography assets back from our photo shoots, then doing the metadata tagging of those assets, working with a third party to do the touchups and color corrections, and then making the assets available to the creative floor. That’s basically the DAM function in a nutshell. We also want to be able to trace where those assets are being used across all channels to help us understand which assets are being the most productive.
How did you find out about DAM systems as a way to deal with your DAM protocols there, and why is that important?
It stems from the need to manage the creative content. If you look at just content management as a principle itself, you have to be able to have all of your digital media in a place where you know what you have, you know where and when you’ve used it, you know how often you’ve used it, and you want to make it searchable and findable by your entire community. So that’s really the basic principle of why you would have a DAM system.
When you’re taking any type of content through a workflow – say editing, formatting, proofreading, and publishing – you want to be able to track that content all the way through that continuum. The actual native creative asset that goes through the workflow needs a place to live and breathe and be hosted.
We make a distinction between the native asset itself, whether it’s photography or copy, and the compound asset or combined asset, where you take a file and layer it and put treatments on it, and you add text and those kinds of things. Those are the things that ultimately get in front of a customer, but the actual native pieces of content that go into the creation of a compound asset need to be curated as well.
What advice would you give to people who are trying to get a DAM system in their organization?
I think that you’ve got to have the end in mind when you want to implement a DAM system to support the business. Why do you want it?
“Ultimately, what I’m trying to aim for is maximum efficiency in the creative process so that the designers, copywriters, and production folks can find the assets they need, when they need them, in the format they’re looking for, so they can create the beautiful things that they make.”
But from the standpoint of maximizing the efficiency of the business and the return on investment of the assets, we want to make sure that we have all the right assets that we need to get the right products in front of the customer and expose them in the right way, and we want to do that with the least cost. If we have very productive assets that are serving their purpose, we want to get those in front of our users, and we want to be able to make sure the assets that are not serving any purpose are not circulated or made unavailable by archiving.
What do you find most fulfilling about digital asset management as part of the management of operations at Bean?
At the end of the day, digital asset management done correctly has the potential to save the business money, so if we can make the right assets as productive as possible, we can save money on photography costs. We can save money on retouching costs. We can support the brand by intelligent reuse of assets across multiple different touchpoints. If you’re using your assets efficiently, then you’re not spending money that you don’t need to.
Anything else you’d like to share with your peers in digital asset management or others that are exploring this topic for the first time?
I think that the industry itself is rapidly evolving, so across all the different touchpoints where a digital asset is going to show up – whether it’s in print or in retail, online, in social media, or really anywhere else – it’s only getting more complicated.
“The best way to simplify it is to make sure you’re using only your best assets across all the platforms where your customers engage with you, and you’re making sure you’ve got a sound tagging structure in place so people can find what they need.”
That’s really the bottom line. If people can’t find what they’re looking for, they’re going to create more things that you also need to manage and tag. So the better off you are in terms of a strong taxonomy and robust search features, the easier it will be to actually control your assets.
How does digital asset management improve your business in a way that is measurable?
From where I sit, the biggest opportunity we have is really on the cost savings side of things. The merchandiser’s job is to get the right product in front of the customer at the right time, in the right environment. So if they’re doing their job and the creative team is providing the right creative assets, then it’s a sort of a match made in heaven.
If you’re on the sales and marketing side of things, if you’re doing your job correctly and putting the right product in front of the customer who wants that product, then you’re going to have increased sales. It would be the creative team’s job to make sure that product looks the right way, is cut the right way, presented in the right way, and that we can trace the use of that asset across all exposure points.
What are the top three to five technologies in which digital asset management is or should be integrated?
If you’re looking at a DAM system, you’re going to want to be able to integrate that system with some sort of campaign management tool. There are many out there in the market, but you’ve got to have a way of planning places and spaces to expose your product across a season. Once you have that plan, you can manage your DAM system to populate that plan with the assets that are going to go in these places. Another critical tool would be some kind of resource management and calendaring system to help with tasking resources and keeping track of assignments, tasks, and deadlines.
What’s your biggest lesson learned with digital asset management?
Measurement and traceability are the two biggest things we’re trying to always get better at. It’s being able to follow an asset from the time it’s created to all of the places where we’re using it, and being able to assign a value to that is something we’re continually working on. If we can trace an asset across all the places where we’re using it and measure how well the customers are receiving it – and I don’t think anyone’s really figured that out perfectly yet – then we’ll really know whether we’re doing our job well or not.
What’s your favorite thing about digital asset management?
“Being part of the DAM function, you’re really in a critical support role. It’s all about supporting creativity.”
We’re not creating the assets, we’re not snapping the photos and creating the photography, we’re not enhancing the photography, we’re not designers doing beautiful layouts. Providing the right tools and support to the actual creative functions is key. Without a smoothly functioning DAM operation, it’s impossible for creative teams to excel at their jobs.
I don’t think the folks involved in digital asset management get a lot of the glory, but most of the folks in those roles also don’t want it. They enjoy being able to get designers, layout staff, and copywriters what they need to do their jobs, and that is the whole point of it.