Managing Creative Assets
Organizing creative services materials is smart business; when the team knows what exists versus what needs to be created, they’re better prepared to deliver creative, strategic, timely and cost-effective projects. A lot of time and effort can be wasted when systems are not in place to facilitate a smart workflow. Consider all of the moving pieces of your creative team’s projects:
- Digital Assets—The actual design, copywriting, image and layout files created by or provided to the creative team. The formats will likely include files created in desktop publishing programs (InDesign, Quark), graphics programs (Photoshop, Illustrator, FreeHand), Microsoft software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), multimedia programs (Flash, Motion, Final Cut Pro) and a myriad of other file types depending on the source. Each of the files need to be stored in a central location and available to all members of the team for the duration of the project, as well as post-completion when reuse opportunities may arise.
- Tangible Assets—3-D items that need to be photographed and kept for reference are also materials to be managed carefully. These need to be purchased, or delivered from the client, and then tracked through all stages including photography, retouching and either storage or return to the client. It’s important to know the location of these items at any given moment to be prepared for a re-shoot or an audit.
- Time Tracking Records—Chargeback departments have to track time and costs associated with every project and many also report costs per project against each client’s budget. It’s necessary that this information is easily searchable, sortable and accessible. Everyone, including your clients, wants to know their current budget status and will ask questions such as:
- How much is left in my budget for this project? For this season? For this year?
- How much is spent on videos versus print ads versus one-sheets?
- How much is spent on retouching and what can we do about reducing that?
- What is current cycle time and how can we reduce that?
- Percentage of projects that require A level (higher salaried) employees versus B or C?
Thankfully many tools exist to support the collection and management of those assets.
- Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems—A database tool to manage the images and other digital files that are of value in the past, present or future. A DAM system holds metadata about digital files such as usage rights and where its been used in your marketing materials (multipurposing of images can be good from a financial and brand continuity perspective, but when overused can have potential detrimental effects). Having a DAM system reinforces the need to have a consistent naming convention, which expedites every stage of a project by simplifying the naming and searching for files. The DAM system not only makes it possible to store, search and find an image or digital asset quickly but also helps your team manage the information associated with the asset.Analyzing and choosing the right DAM system for your needs is important. There are many off-the-shelf systems and most can also be customized to a degree. Setting up the DAM system requires upfront time and a financial investment, but there’s a huge ROI on time and expense once it’s up and running. Your DAM sales representative (or your Cella partner) should be able to help you create a compelling cost analysis, as well as support the documentation of requirements.
- Time and project management databases—These simplify the management of schedules and budgets. Again, there are multiple-off-the shelf databases available to the creative audience now and most seem to understand the marketing experience enough that the off-the-shelf package can be used. Many are web based, so that reduces expense and simplifies the setup to a great degree. Other creative organizations choose to implement a fully-customized solution built with FileMaker Pro. For project managers, a good project management database is like finding the Holy Grail. It should allow for collaboration in creating the following:
- Creative Brief defining project scope, target and budget
- Schedule, expense projections and projected variance
- Print productions estimates, actuals and variances
- Ability for the entire project team to see the project status at any given moment
As with the DAM system, analyzing and choosing the right PM system for your needs is imperative to the success of your system. In addition to support your project management needs, the system should be able to support the financial reporting requirements of your Finance department. Like your DAM tool, the upfront time and cost may be a deterrent for some organizations, but the payoff is evident very quickly. Cost analysis generally creates a very effective business case for implementing a project management tool and the sales representative can help you justify the cost. To offset the time investment, bringing in an external provider to support requirements gathering, training, and implementation can expedite adoption and decrease the learning curve.
Overall, the creative team assets need to be organized and accessible in a user-friendly medium. Creatives by nature are not “system or process friendly,” but most, if not all, easily adapt to intuitive systems that simplify their roles and keep creating marketing materials a fun, collaborative and creative experience.
Join Rena, author of this post, and two other former in-house creative leaders at "Beyond the Creative: Business Operations for Creative Services Leaders" in Philadelphia for a two-day training seminar on October 13th and 14th. More information is available at http://www.cellaconsulting.com/html/falltraining.htm.
For information about how Cella can add value to your business through consulting, coaching, and training, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rena DeLevie, a Cella consultant, is a people-oriented transformational leader with 23 years experience in the creative industry (Talbots, J. Crew, Kenneth Cole, UBS, Cole Haan); first as an art director for 8 years, then in Creative Operations for the past 15+ years. Her passion is to help companies and people succeed by listening, analyzing and proposing solutions for organizational structure, streamlining communication, financial accountability, increasing efficiency and reducing expenses.