DAM Champ: Rachel Edwards
DAM champ Rachel Edwards is the marketing content platforms manager at Campbell Soup Company. She has managed the digital asset management (DAM) system and the workflow system for about a year. Before that, she worked at QVC managing their media asset management (MAM) system for about seven years. She obtained a Master of Science in Library & Information Science (MSLIS) degree from Drexel University. She’s passionate about metadata, taxonomies, and data governance and has been specializing in bringing order to data chaos since 2007.
DAM champ: Someone who supports finding, setting up, or maintaining a DAM system. There’s a wide variety of DAM champions who come from positions in production, creative, management, IT, and marketing.
What’s your role at Campbell Soup Company?
I oversee both our DAM system and our workflow tool for packaging design. The two systems are connected, and some assets flow directly from the workflow tool into the DAM. I’m on the marketing technology team, which is part of the larger Marketing Services department at Campbell’s.
What sparked your interest in librarianship?
It was funny, actually, because I was working at the University of Pennsylvania at the time, and one of the benefits if you’re an employee there was you could attend school tuition-free. So, I thought, “Well, if I’m ever going to get a master’s, now’s the time.” But I looked at the degree programs that Penn offered and nothing was really that interesting to me.
I thought, “Well, even if it’s free, it’s a big time commitment; I want to do something I’m interested in.” Then I stumbled on a course book for Drexel and was looking at the library degree program, and every single required course I was really excited about. So, I didn’t end up getting my master’s for free, but I did get it in something I really had a passion for.
That’s awesome. What’s your experience with DAM systems?
Before Campbell’s, I spent 10 years at QVC. For the majority of those years — about seven of the 10 — I was responsible for running their MAM system, where they stored their digital video library. I kind of fell into that because originally I was managing their SharePoint sites. The woman who was running the MAM was going on maternity leave, so I was supposed to be a temporary fill in. Then she didn’t come back, so I was it. I managed their MAM system throughout the rest of my time at QVC and now I’ve been at Campbell’s for about a year overseeing their DAM.
Why do you think that DAM is important?
Companies tend to underestimate how much having have one central digital repository saves them as far as time and money. I think that a lot of companies don’t realize how much time is being spent looking for things and how much work is being duplicated because people can’t find what they need.
“Having one central repository for your digital assets is valuable in so many ways. It saves you time and money and it also gives your employees confidence that the image they found in the library is up-to-date, has been legally approved, and is the one they should be using.”
Sometimes companies get very nervous about how much money it costs to set it up, but it incrementally saves time and money down the road.
Yeah, I definitely agree. What aspect of DAM do you geek out about the most? Is it metadata, analytics, permissions, or something else?
Totally metadata, especially controlled vocabularies. I love when you have good controlled vocabularies. I think a lot of people tend to think, “Okay, yes, metadata, it’s important. Put as much on there as you can,” but it’s really kind of an art where more isn’t necessarily better. It’s finding the right metadata, which means understanding how people are searching and really making the most of how you’re tagging an asset.
What does your DAM system help you accomplish in your work?
A lot. Like I mentioned before, the efficiency. Before the DAM, Campbell’s didn’t have a set system. Things were on shared drives and thumb drives in people’s drawers. A lot of people spent a lot of time looking for things. Then, when they did find an image they weren’t sure if it was the most updated one and whether or not they should use it. They spent a lot of time emailing and calling, and there was also a lot of duplication of effort. For example, someone would think, “I know there is a really great picture of that bowl of Chunky Soup, but now I can’t find it, so I’m just going to go to creative and have it redone.”
We like to refer to our DAM system as the one source of truth. It’s where your final, approved asset is. You can go there and be confident that’s the one you need.
“So, having this one system where people can know to go to and know it’s the one source of truth has just saved a lot of uncertainty, time, and money.”
It helps the business run more smoothly, especially somewhere like Campbell’s. We’re segmented into different business units here. There’s the core Campbell’s brand and then there’s the Pepperidge Farm brand. Then we have our Australian brands and Campbell Canada. We also have Plum baby food and the Campbell Fresh division out in California. Everyone has their own set of brands and their own workflows and processes.
But you know if you’re going to the DAM that that’s where everyone’s final approved image is. If you need an image from Canada you can go to the DAM and know that’s their final approved image. Then you check the legal rights in the metadata and know whether you’re allowed to use it or not. It really helps with a lot of self-serve.
This is especially important when we’re dealing with so many time zones. Before, if you wanted an image from Australia, it could take you a couple days doing emails back and forth because of the time difference. But now the DAM is always there and it’s always open.
That’s a big help. What is your day-to-day involvement with the DAM system?
Basically, I’m the voice of the user. I’m the liaison between all the different business units, the technical people and the vendor, for keeping the DAM running smoothly and meeting the users’ needs. I take any technical problems to the IT team and the vendors to have updated. If they need anything tested, I either do that myself or arrange for the appropriate users to test.
I also run our governance council. Campbell’s has a governance council that oversees the DAM. There are representatives from each of the different business units. I run our meetings. I set the agenda, determine options for any issues we need to vote on, and communicate things out to them that they then communicate further out into their business units. I’m really the voice of the user for the whole company.
It’s really interesting that you have a governance council, because we always encourage people to have a governance document at the very least, but you guys have a whole team of people. That’s really cool.
It really was a pleasant surprise when I arrived at Campbell’s because QVC had really struggled with that. They hadn’t set up governance in the beginning, and when you try and do it a few years down the road, it’s a lot harder. The fact that Campbell’s had done that up front was really great.
The governance council is really active. People are really invested in this system. Most of the people on the council have been there since the functional requirements gathering in the very beginning. They attend the meetings and they have an opinion. They’re as invested as I am in seeing the system succeed, which is really great to have them back me up. You’re not all alone because you have some cheerleaders behind you, cheering on the success of the DAM system.
Do you keep mostly images in your library or do you have different types of assets in there?
Primarily it’s images. We do have some videos that we put in as well. But I’d say it’s 95% images. And that’s a broad range of images that includes marketing content, store displays, packaging, and more. If it’s an image, it can go in the DAM.
How do you manage different types of assets? I know you said you have mostly images, but is there differences depending on the type of image?
The required metadata fields vary a bit for each type of image. Depending on the area the asset falls into, I may have some different metadata requirements in addition to the core set. For example, packaging has its own set of metadata. It gets the base set that every image gets, and then a few additional fields. Marketing collateral also has some additional fields. We don’t handle images or video differently. Video gets the same metadata essentially as the images do.
How do you promote your DAM system throughout the company in order to increase adoption and awareness of the system?
A lot of talking; I talk about the DAM any chance I get. I could talk about DAM-related things all day every day because it’s pretty easy for me. We also have a company intranet site and we just recently did a posting on there. Our DAM just passed its one-year anniversary, so we did a little promotional piece on our company intranet that generated a lot of comments. Actually, it had a lot more activity than I anticipated. There were people asking about the system, how do they use it, and what kinds of assets are in there. It really helped to generate some buzz around DAM, since now it’s a year old and people weren’t talking about it as much.
“But really, we just bring it up any chance we can get, talk with people who are new to the company, and just spread the word. You also have to make sure to communicate with the existing users too. You don’t want people to go to training and then not use it.”
So, I check in with them to see how it’s going and if the DAM is meeting their needs. Really it’s just communicating and talking as much as you can so people remember it’s there and remember to use it.
What is your biggest challenge with DAM currently?
Our current frustration is we don’t have a lot of reporting at this point. We don’t get a good set of usage reports out of the tools that we’re using, so it can be really tough. Like I said, we just passed the one year anniversary of the DAM, so people are starting to ask for stats. We know this is saving us time and money, but how much? What are the numbers?
We’re really struggling at this point to get some concrete statistics to continue to sell the DAM and prove its value. So that’s a bit frustrating, and it’s a shortcoming of the tool that we need to work on.
Yeah, that makes sense.
As I mentioned, Campbell’s is made up of varying business units, and they all kind of have different ways that they use the DAM. Ultimately, their finished assets end up there, but the way they get there is very different.
Each business unit has different relationships with agencies, different backend workflows, and different priorities for their resources. It can be a challenge to manage all of that and make sure everyone is successful in getting their access to the DAM when they’re all coming from different worlds. And with the smaller business units, resources can be an issue, so it’s working with them if they only have someone who can maybe spend an hour on DAM admin tasks or uploading assets a week. How can we help you?
This next question is funny. It relates to your challenge, which is how do you know your DAM system is successful?
In the absence of some concrete numbers, word of mouth and people speaking well of the system really works in our favor. Just having people who talk about it in a positive way in the company can really help. We do have some very bare bones numbers that help us to some extent. We can see the total number of assets in the system and if that number is going up and if it’s going up at the appropriate rates. So we know people are putting new content in and refreshing the content. And we do know how many users we have, so we can see if the business units are getting their new people up and running. So there are some numbers, but we’re really relying a lot on positive talk.
What advice would you give other DAM professionals?
We have some frustrations now because we customized a lot of our system, and sometimes customizations can kind of back you into a corner, where upgrading and enhancing the system is a lot more difficult. Whenever we try and do an upgrade, it breaks the customizations and we almost feel like we’re starting all over. So when you’re looking for a system, think about the basic functionality that you need. Do you really need enhancements? What are the users really going to use and need when it gets right down to it? And be very leery of over-customizing.
“Then I’d say once you have the system in, never stop talking to your users.”
Make sure you’re always having refresher training and bringing new people in. And just keep talking to people. The way that you use the DAM is going to evolve and change over time. The users’ priorities and how they think they’re going to use it in the beginning may not be how they’re actually using it six months down the road, so just stay in contact with them. As they evolve, the system needs to evolve along with them to stay current in being a key resource. You really need to make sure you’re always in tune with what your users need.
That’s great advice.
And having a governance council helps with that because the governance representatives can bring their opinions of what they’re hearing to the meeting and everyone can discuss those as a group and bounce ideas off each other for how can we make it better. I highly recommend having a governance group.
I would recommend that as well. Do you have any resources, conferences, forums, or news sources you’d like to recommend to people who are looking to learn more about DAM?
I think going to conferences is so valuable. I recommend the one I went to this year, the IEN Digital Assets & Content Leadership Exchange, and of course, Henry Stewart, which is the well-known one. Just going to those conferences to meet people, have conversations, make some connections, it’s really valuable. Sometimes you think you’re the only person struggling with certain things and you find out it’s not just you. And maybe someone has this other great idea you hadn’t thought of.
I always come back from conferences really excited about what I’ve learned and about relationships I’ve made so we can continue knowledge sharing after the conference. It really just gives you a renewed excitement over your system to come back with new ideas and having met with “your” people –– people who get as excited about this stuff as you do, which isn’t always the case for your direct coworkers.
And now that I found the site you write for, I’m pretty excited about that too because I didn’t know about that until January at the conference, so now we have a new resource.