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The evidence is DAMning - What happens without digital asset management?

Whatever your industry, however your business works, you depend on digital assets. As their use grows and the number of files multiplies, they become more vital to success – and increasingly tricky to wrangle. Here’s what happens when you aren’t on top of your digital asset management.

By: Lydia Bird

Over the last decade or so, the typical business has seen an explosion in the number and variety of digital assets it needs. Product data, staff details, sales enablement, video, logos, photos – when we do business digitally, we need a library of assets close at hand and ready to go.

Research by IDC suggests that marketers and creatives now need to pump out 10 times the assets to support the ever-growing number of channels available. But when you’re talking about libraries of files that extend from a few thousand documents, up to many terabytes of rich media content, keeping everything managed and flowing freely can become a massive challenge. And when it goes wrong, files go missing, workflows get blocked, and huge sums of money are simply wasted.

At least, that’s the potential. Smart businesses already understand that their digital files are a fundamental business asset, and that the ability to store, search and retrieve them is a prerequisite for realising their value. But disasters can happen:

● Accidental deletion – in 1997, or so the story goes, a slip on the keyboard wiped 90% of Toy Story 2 from the Pixar servers. Luckily the film’s supervising technical director had a backup copy on her home machine.

● Natural disasters – When floods hit the Cologne Historic Archive in 2021, historic documents and museum objects were soaked in muddy water. Museums are increasingly keen to digitise their archives to create electronic backups that will preserve historical records long into the future.

● Insecure storage – As Martechcube highlights, only 61% of marketers and creators surveyed in 2020 used a cloud storage solution. Others used local servers (51%) and local storage (32%). Worryingly, 88% of companies admitted to not limiting access to their storage, risking a data breach.

While the assets themselves are essential, effective digital asset management (DAM) is the key to supporting their use, and getting the maximum return from your investment.

Assets everywhere

We’ve written at great length about what exactly a DAM is, and why having the right solution is vital for businesses that produce, publish or otherwise depend on content. But what exactly are the risks and pitfalls for brands and businesses that DON’T invest in a suitable asset infrastructure? What happens as your growing assets begin to push at the boundaries of your current system?

Metadata information

What is digital asset management?

The essential way to stay on top of your business, sales and marketing collateral

Whether you have disorganised storage across multiple computers, or an organised, centralised library on a server, one of the first problems you’re likely to encounter revolves around asset retrieval.

Without a centralised way of managing the storage and retrieval of your files, you’re at the mercy of users who’ve mis-named them, saved them in the wrong place, deleted them by accident, or simply forgotten they were ever created. For example, 37% of UK-based marketing professionals say that it takes them several minutes to find an asset, with a further 21% unsure of even where to find them.

Multiple studies show that businesses are wasting money creating assets that never get used. According to a Content Marketing Institute report, up to 80% of content produced by marketers isn’t being used by sales – in many cases that’s simply because it can’t be found. In fact, additional research suggests that half of marketers produce assets that go unused specifically because people can’t find them – or don’t know they exist in the first place.

For marketers and creatives, unused assets are wasted money. For rights owners, they’re a wasted opportunity – for example, a classic episode forever lost in the archive, or licensable content that nobody is able to discover. The faster teams can find the right asset, the faster they can respond to current events or emerging trends – delivering the right image for social media or providing the right video clip for a client.

The cost of recreating lost work is considerable. Estimates vary, but it’s thought a typical firm recreates around 10% of its assets over their lifetime. When companies are spending up to $250,000 on digital content yearly, that’s millions of dollars wasted simply to tread water. The losses mount up when you consider the time you waste looking for content – the average UK worker spends an incredible two hours a day searching for data!

Controlling chaos

The chaos of a growing asset library doesn’t stop with missing files. Typical content workflows involve multiple creators, collaborators, and other stakeholders: a DAM prevents asset owners losing control of how their assets are changed, distributed and used.

Without DAM, it’s hard to control the permissions various users have to view or access files. For example, you can’t assign roles such as ‘producer’ to have a user inherit the appropriate permissions, or add them to the relevant project group or team. The result is that people have to manually request access, adding to the admin overheads of your work.

Aon and Imagen

How Aon has controlled their chaos

Discover how we helped AON reduce its video workflow from 12 days, to just 12 hours

Worse is the risk that contributors end up with greater access to more material than they should have. This is a particular risk for creative teams and rights holders with large, valuable clip libraries. All it takes is one untrustworthy person with the wrong permissions, and your precious IP could end up all over the internet.

The same is true even when your team has the highest standards of integrity. Without the centralised sharing and distribution features of a DAM, colleagues turn to improvised and free methods of sharing files. Often these lack high-grade security features, such as file encryption or password protection, leaving assets vulnerable to theft.

Version aversion

But your files are at risk from more than just ending up in the wrong hands. DAMs bring order to asset sharing between teams, agencies, freelancers and other stakeholders. Without their features – such as version control, in-line commenting and other markup tools – it’s far harder to work collaboratively with remote colleagues. One of the biggest risks is simple confusion about which is the latest, authoritative version of an asset, and who’s supposed to be working on it. It’s all too easy for, say, an editor to be working on a final cut, only to discover they’ve used the wrong edit of a scene.

What a difference a DAM makes

Digital asset management brings order to your essential files and content. A DAM enables:

● Improved productivity – no more searching for files or losing assets. Aon’s video workflow used to take 12 days. It’s now 12 hours…
● Better control – give colleagues and stakeholders the right access
● Security and compliance – secure storage, version control, inbuilt approval management
● Brand consistency, brand integrity and sales enablement – get the right files to the people who need them
● Higher ROI – get the most from every asset

What can digital asset management save you? Use our DAM ROI calculator

It’s also hard for colleagues to pass on detailed feedback or instructions when these can’t be tied to a specific point in a film, passage in a document, or area of an image. In the worst case, colleagues waste time seeking clarity, or making the wrong changes which must later be undone.

Even when an asset is supposedly finalised, there’s often a need to embed or attach sign offs – whether creative, legal, or relating to licensing or release. DAMs make this easy. Without them, you need your own processes to ensure the right approvals have been sought, and that the content is both creatively and legally ‘final’. When these fail, the risks range from embarrassment and brand damage should sub-par or off-brand content make it out, through to the cost and publicity of legal action if compliance or approvals processes have failed.

In truth, there’s almost no limit to the ways things can go wrong when you’re not on top of your assets. If what you’ve read sounds familiar – if you’re losing files, recreating work, worried about security or simply trying to streamline your content workflows – a DAM will help you bring order to content chaos.

“Imagen has changed the way we share content on a daily basis. We use the platform to share our daily rushes, our assemblies and our picture locks across the business – and externally to commissioners at various channels.”

Discover how we help Banijay, formerly Endemol Shine, manage, share and maximise the return on its huge media catalogue.

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