Guru Talk: Deb Fanslow – ICP

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I’ve been working in DAM for over 6 years, with experience across the pharmaceutical, CPG, library, museum, and education industries. After earning my Master of Library Sciences degree, I began my career in DAM within academia, working as a graduate intern at the Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies to implement an enterprise document management system to manage the library’s special collections. To gain more experience, I then interned with the National History Museum of Los Angeles County, cataloging their marketing materials to support the museum’s rich holdings. At the same time, I volunteered at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, digitizing rare historic library manuscripts and archival materials.

My first foray into DAM in the private sector was a position with Schawk, working as the Lead Digital Asset Coordinator for their client, Campbell Soup Company. In this role, I managed and administered Campbell’s library of over 115,000 packaging/brand assets, oversaw creation, review, cataloging, and distribution of product renderings, and got my first taste of workflow design and optimization, as well as the challenges of upgrading and aligning stakeholders across a global company. I then moved into a challenging role at Campbell as Marketing Content Platforms Manager, coming onboard mid-project to lead a global team in launching Campbell’s first enterprise DAM system and integrating it with their established workflow system.

Next came a role as Content Steward with Aquent Studios, working with a team of librarians at their client, Merck, to develop global modular content automation capabilities. It was here that I learned the complexities of modularizing master content for local reuse using an XML workflow. I was heavily involved in developing standards and processes, as well as training and documentation.

From this experience, I transitioned to a much broader role at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) as Content Management Capability Lead, where I focused on developing a strategy to drive content reuse across the business, traditional digital asset management, and development of modular content capabilities. In this role, I led projects to analyze and update BMS’s metadata schema, augment DAM reporting capabilities using data visualization, upgrade the DAM system, onboard a new business unit, identify what we called the upstream “content pipeline,” and last but not least, customize their DAM system to support creation and management of dynamic modular content.

As a proponent of documentation, my next role was a foray into knowledge management, a close cousin to DAM. In this temporary position I worked as a consultant with the Educational Testing Service (ETS), where I led a project to develop an online knowledge base support ETS’s flagship item banking system—the hub of an extraordinarily complex ecosystem that stands as a stellar example of end-to-end modular content creation and delivery.

All of these experiences have led me to my current role as Migration Manager for ICP. I work with their client, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, to manage a library of References to support commercial and medical materials. After migrating their Reference library to a new platform, I am now responsible for ongoing content curation and governance. With the rollout of the new system, I have contributed to developing new metadata standards and processes, system configuration, training, and user support. I work among a team of talented DAM professionals, and benefit from their collective experience.


How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I actually started learning about DAM before I knew what it was. At the beginning of my 17-year stint working as a graphic designer in the publishing industry, I was creating digital assets and managing all of the content created during the process on servers. My first exposure to DAM was on the user side, where I used one of the first enterprise DAM systems (remember the days of Artesia?) to store and distribute book cover images. Coming into DAM with an understanding of the creative process and the user experience is invaluable.

Although not mandatory for a successful career, I absolutely recommend investing in a Library/Information Science degree that focuses on managing digital libraries. DAM today is heavily marketing-focused, but the principles of centralizing, structuring, managing, and distributing information for findability are much broader than that, and are evergreen across industries, content types, and every DAM use case I have ever heard. And the focus is always on the people using information systems to access and use information in all of its various forms.

Some of the best DAM education I’ve had came as a result of working as a School Library Media Specialist. It was in this role that I learned about the reference interview (what is the user’s underlying need?), teaching (accommodating different learning styles, scaffolding, and continuous reinforcement), change management (personalization is key), user experience (how many interfaces do students need to learn to find the right article?), and most of all, the importance of patience!

Apart from work experience, I would of course recommend visiting the DAM Directory, a curated launching pad to a myriad of DAM resources. Attend DAM conferences, find a mentor, join professional associations, sign up for DAM Peeps, and read everything you can from consultants, analysts, vendors, and practicing DAM professionals—keeping in mind the source.

You can learn many of the core principles of digital asset management by managing your own digital content using a personal desktop DAM system designed for the professional photographer’s workflow. Last but not least, for those new to DAM and the experienced alike, keep an eye on job postings to learn the skills that employers are looking for—then go out and acquire them!


What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I have a voracious appetite for learning, so my list is long! At the top currently is learning more about the larger ecosystem of DAM—strategy and orchestration of data and content that flows upstream and downstream throughout the digital supply chain.

I’d love to get a peek under the hood of a DAM system from a developer. Also on the list is learning more about system integration, Master Data/Metadata management, modular content, data aggregation, Media Asset Management (MAM), product management, analytics…there’s always something more to learn!

Webinar Recording: The State of DAM User Adoption Today

Last month’s webinar ‘The State of DAM User Adoption Today‘ is now available to watch on YouTube.  Featuring a series of panelists including Lisa Grimm, Ian Matzen, Ralph Windsor and Henrik de Gyor, and hosted by Frank DeCarlo from RPR Graphics, the webinar represents a rare opportunity to gather a wealth of insights, tips and actionable guidance from some of the DAM industry’s foremost experts.

Aimed primarily at DAM user adoption and the challenges surrounding it, the session covers a wide range of topics including User Experience (UX), User Interface (UI), training, Change Management, targeting a DAM champion, the importance of providing device and platform-agnostic access, and effective strategies on how to build a roadmap that centres around the expectations and needs of the users themselves.

Offering candid and neutral advice, the webinar does not endorse any products or vendors, and with a series of user-submitted Q&As should prove to be a useful resource for anyone involved in onboarding users for a DAM initiative at any stage of its development lifecycle.

You can watch the full webinar below.

DAM Chicago 2019: Conference Feedback

This article was written by Jeffrey Marino.


We posed a series of questions to a diverse range of attendees at the Henry Stewart 2019 Chicago DAM conference and have compiled their responses in this article. Common themes of interest included: Artificial Intelligence (lots), User Experience (much), Rights and Taxonomy (some) and Getting Started with DAM (more than a few).


Many thanks to the following for providing us with their insights:

Carol Lammers, Manager- Photography Services at Mayo Clinic

Tracy Olmsted, DAM Program Owner, BrandNext at Amway

Kristen Johnson, Operation Assistant at Bibliovault and student in the Rutgers University certification program for Digital Asset Management

Frank Villella, Director, Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Kenn Crombé, Business & Network Developer, Kadanza

Sal Hakimi, Co-Founder, Tenovos

Matt Patulski, Project Manager and Business Analyst, CyanGate

Michael Romero, Vice President Integrated Solutions at iPR Software


Regarding the event:

Q: What were the most useful insights you gained from the DAM Chicago conference?


Carol Lammers

How to evaluate and select technology and how AI is helping with identification and metadata tagging.


Tracy Olmsted

This may not be as relevant to the conference as it was to me, but the major insight I gained is that we are on target. We’re new to the DAM space and we’ve been a bit isolated. It was reassuring to learn that what we’re asking for in our company is not only possible, but in alignment with where DAM is headed.


Kristen Johnson

I realized everyone is at dierent points in DAM development and it was great to see and hear what worked for some companies but not others. Everyone seemed willing to help each other.


Frank Villella

Most useful was networking, talking with other folks about their projects and challenges with getting a DAM up and running.


Kenn Crombé

That it’s not always about being the DAM with the biggest array of features, but more about gaining trust usually built through honest communication and references in one’s current client portfolio (industry-specific).

As purchase managers you can look at all the features, and end up buying a highly functional platform, but one first has gotta ask oneself how many people are going to use it and what’s the ease-of-use. The more people will use the DAM, the more relevant this argument becomes.

Clean up your metadata before to start implementing your DAM (also you have post-migration clean-ups).

Governance, you got to have it cause otherwise very likely your system will fail, cause it’s not just about clicking a button.


Sal Hakimi

We had a lot of great discussions and conversation with attendees and a few things became clear about the attendees:

There was a ton of talk about AI/ML and Rights Managements. But not real integrations or capabilities that really merge those capabilities and blend into operating models (maybe minus the Videofashion use case which to be fair uses that tech in almost a non-DAM way with their fashion video archive).

There was a fair number of attendees who did not have any DAM or feel their current DAM was no longer viable for their business objectives/lacked adoption/legacy tech. I think for the folks that had an aging DAM there was a lot of frustration on where their current vendor/tech had stalled and could not respond to what would be capabilities that are part of mature DAM tech and operations.

The metadata managers and practitioners always are a solid base of attendees and make panels or sessions with metadata informative. It’s good to see those roles still being considered key staffing for companies using DAM (even if many are the only singular resource in their company).


Matt Patulski

Metadata is the hook on which everyone needs to hang their hat.


Michael Romero

Consistent with previous conferences, DAM is an exciting space for innovation. Whether the core intellect revolves around AI or metadata, I’ve found that we increasingly develop successful ways to move the industry forward.


Q: What DAM-related topics are currently most interesting to you? and was that reflected at DAM Chicago?


Carol Lammers

Transferring to a new systems is most relevant to us at this point in time. I found the panel discussions with other organizations going through transitions informative and helpful. Yes, it was reflected.


Tracy Olmsted

We’re a global organization with DAM needs that span several markets. The DAM topics we’ve been exploring are one instance vs. multiple, cloud vs. on premises, metadata and taxonomy restructuring, AI support for metadata and search. We were able to explore all of those topics at HS Chicago. We’re also updating our DAM and we were able to talk to vendors and colleagues about what they were using and their experiences.


Kristen Johnson

I was interested in automation, AI, and preservation of objects that were pre-digital (film reels, photographs, etc). Yes, all of these subject matters were covered at the conference.


Frank Villella

My institution doesn’t yet have a formal DAM, so DAM 101 is what most interests me at the moment. This was touched upon to a small extent at the conference.


Kenn Crombé

How every DAM relates to each other and which criteria/methodology consultants really use in which “use-cases” of their clients. This wasn’t much reflected at DAM Chicago, but I understand why this is kept a bit confidential to avoid jeopardising one’s own business.


Sal Hakimi

I think the marketing and brand control over a company’s content (planning/spend/creation/execution/operations/omni-channel) hasn’t been a focus where it’s addressed holistically and looked at from the story-telling/narrative; where a Creative/Brand VP talks about what they need DAM to do; where content and operational transparency is necessary to support C-Level goals (eComm, Revenue/Retail, B2C Loyalty, Licensing….).


HS client case studies showcase ways a company (Mars, Detroit Institute, etc.) use DAM and often it is called enterprise DAM – but speakers are often IT owners, database managers that own the technology and recognize they need governance, change management, etc.


But as a software vendor – to improve our product – and ultimately innovate in the DAM industry, the bigger conversation and perspective needs to be heard and understood first. And in that way the practitioners of DAM who attend HS conferences can share their daily experiences but also begin to really speak to DAM ROI and Content Maturity because the value of DAM starts to have a narrative beyond technology.


Matt Patulski

Archive Practices in the Private Sector and Cultural Heritage. The Chicago event is always strong with museum panels and attendees. The sessions on Detroit Institute of Arts and Boston Symphony Orchestra were great.


Michael Romero

AI and enterprise-level implementations are most important to my focus at the moment and both were represented well at DAM Chicago.


From what you heard at the conference:

Q: Where do you think DAM has innovated in the last few years?


Carol Lammers

I’m new to the DAM world so not really able to fully answer this. I did find AI and machine learning to be innovative and strong potential in the future


Tracy Olmsted

I’m new to this work in the last year, but it looks like there have been some leaps and bounds in the AI space.


Kristen Johnson

AI and automation.


Frank Villella

Hard to say, since I’m new to this.


Kenn Crombé

Business and brand intelligence, with more accurate analytics to back it up.


Matt Patulski

Integrations and platforming to address MDM and Content Syndications especially in the CPG space. Most of the Case studies were not stand alone systems; they were positioned within larger organizational ecosystems.


Q: What developments got your attention?


Carol Lammers



Tracy Olmsted

Definitely the capabilities behind (the) VideoFashion (case study). The use of AI for creating a searchable library was very impressive.


Kristen Johnson

AI and how to get systems at dierent technological levels talking/interacting with each other.


Frank Villella

The artificial intelligence aspect is fascinating.


Kenn Crombé

Business tagging (AI), and the specific use of AI in the case of Videofashion (represented by Anne V. Adami).


Sal Hakimi

The User Experience has to change for the most important stakeholders and software has to reflect how they work, where they work and not take them into a separate ‘DAM experience’.


From your own experience:

Q: Has DAM innovation, implementation and adoption helped you and your organization? If so, how?


Carol Lammers

I’m hoping it will as we transition from a 15 year old system that has not been well utilized.


Tracy Olmsted

It definitely has, but we have a long way to go. It has provided a “single source of truth” and done a great job providing a structure that protects the company from legal liability, but only if people use it.


Michael Romero

From the vendor side, innovation is extremely important to the survival and growth of our business. If we don’t acknowledge, adapt and support innovation then we should be doing something else for a living. As it relates to our customers, they expect innovation from us as we’ve built long-standing relationships with the promise of partnership for the long-haul.


Q: What issues or roadblocks need (or still need) to be overcome?


Carol Lammers

Governance and adoption by an organization of 70,000+ employees.


Tracy Olmsted

Our roadblocks are in the user experience area. You can’t browbeat everyone into using a system. You need to make it the most desirable option. The more desirable the option, the more people use it, the more we’re protected from liability. We have improvements to make in both our process and our system to create that “most desirable” user experience.


Frank Villella

We have to convince upper management to allocate the resources and invest.


Sal Hakimi

Who owns/values and supports content technologies is shifting but still has a ways to go so that Brand/Marketing use cases and realities in a company’s content journey is met. (ie, nobody wants to ‘own’ the technology but in any initial governance meeting it’s really clear that IT has very little say about ‘owning’ content spend/planning/execution for brands, which heavily defines the right technology and solution being asked for).


Matt Patulski

DAM as a concept continues to be abstract to most members of potential user communities. DAM vendors and consultants need to do a better job equipping their clients with the language to communicate the benefits and risks of Digital Asset Management. With DAM solutions expected to integrate with so many systems across the enterprise — ERP, PIM, CRM, MDM, CMS — there is a need for a community of practice and a need to drive integration standards regardless of the software architecture.


Michael Romero

Interesting question because there aren’t any that immediately come to mind. I think an area that is going to see more innovation will be the AI space, and companies will eventually build their own AI layers on top of the Amazons, Googles and Microsofts of the world.


Looking ahead:

Q: Do you think that ROI from DAM is properly understood by stakeholders? What do you think best demonstrates its value?


Carol Lammers

No. ROI is always dicult to show for most aspects of creative endeavors. I think showing the saving of time for projects through the value of being able to find assets is key.


Tracy Olmsted

I can only speak or our company, but I would say it could be better understood. That will come from the measurable KPIs that we are working to put in place. I would like to start adding the monetary value of each asset to the metadata, then measure that against the analytics we can bring back from assets that are directly placed in web, design and social platforms – things like engagement, impressions, and conversions. That way we can see that ROI of each asset by measuring its use against the cost of making it. I would also like to see more ways of gathering feedback from the DAM users about the assets. If they can comment, like and share within the system and we can measure that plus their placement in internal design and development software such as Creative Cloud and Sketch – then we have a second layer of data. All of this should go into a dashboard for creative decision makers.


Kristen Johnson

I feel like stakeholders tend to undervalue DAMs and their usefulness. One possible way of showing their worth would be for the company to show profit as a result.


Frank Villella

Ease of access to materials.


Sal Hakimi

ROI for DAM is looked at around finding content, reuse and cost savings – again, mainly due to the idea a content technology solution should show those KPI’s along with ensure the principle of brand consistency is about using/finding/reusing the ‘right content’. ROI for Brand Content is so much larger when you look across content planning, workflow and outcomes. And if DAM is connected into that ecosystem it can enrich data and show many more ROI parameters.


Matt Patulski

No. Too often there is a gap between leadership and end users as to what DAM is, when mature. The space needs to frame DAM as a service much more clearly instead of a software product that has an end life. The best way to make the case for ROI is to use examples where DAM addresses pain points such as moving large files, managing brand consistency, rights management, versioning and derivative management.


Michael Romero

The content at DAM conferences improves with each instance. I spoke to many first-timers who were extremely impressed and sometimes happily overwhelmed with the wealth of knowledge presented in one day. In my opinion, the single day in Chicago was more informative than the two days in New York this year and I think that speaks to improved programming based on listening to what practitioners need and want.


Q: What topics would you like to see discussed in greater depth by the DAM community?


Carol Lammers

Hard to say since I’m a new attendee.


Tracy Olmsted

How DAM is not just being used as a repository, but the foundation for an ecosystem and a vehicle for conversation around creative direction.


Kristen Johnson

Security and governance.


Frank Villella

Getting started with a DAM.


Kenn Crombé

Overall mapping of the dierent strategic directions and thus positioning of players in the industry (without necessarily mentioning any names, íf that would be a point of concern), but I guess that’s the type of knowledge that analysts like The Real Story Group try to monopolize and keep secret.


Matt Patulski

User experience and accessibility. Most DAM platforms are very immature in this regard. Supporting Mobile and tablet UIs with end users.


Michael Romero

Like a broken record, I’ll continue to raise a flag for more AI discussions. I also think that further dialogue around taxonomy and metadata continues to be a focal point necessary for our industry’s evolution.


Q: What was your overall experience of DAM Chicago and would you go again?


Carol Lammers

Yes, it was great. I made good connections, learned some new things and found out we were already doing come things right.


Tracy Olmsted

Excellent. Yes, I would.


Kristen Johnson

If I was given the opportunity, I would definitely go again. It was wonderful to see the breadth of experience from people from dierent organizations struggling with a variety of subject matters.


Frank Villella

It was a lot to absorb in one day; I would love to go again, but it’s quite expensive (my fee was comped).


Kenn Crombé

Friendly and open atmosphere, helpful organization of HS. It’s well suited to connect with experts/consultants in the field as well as to learn from specific case studies that were presented, but less useful to discover and connect with design & production agencies as well as potential technology integrators (which are both quite relevant for Kadanza’s expansion strategy). Yes I would like to go again, if budget and opportunities permit.


Sal Hakimi

I would always go again – I think listening and learning from this community of content professionals is vital. Refreshing the sessions and tracks so they are better defined by roles/content/maturity, having the exhibit floor turnkey and using a LOT more video for presentations, technical discussions and thought leadership…all things I hope to see in the future.


Matt Patulski

Very much enjoyed the day in Chicago. This was my 4th visit in the past 10 years. I suspect I will be back again.


Michael Romero

Loved it and would absolutely go again. Planning on San Diego in a few weeks; very much appreciate Henry Stewart Conferences and look forward to more exciting content.

DAM Chicago 2019 Review

This article was written by Jeffrey Marino.


DAM Chicago 2019, The Art and Practice of Managing Digital Media, kicked off September 24th.  Before the sessions began, I chatted with David Lipsey, the conference Chair, and asked for some insight on what was in store for us at the ‘the Midwest’s largest conference dedicated to Digital Asset Management.’

“Chicago is a very interesting expression of DAM in the marketplace. There are hundreds of companies in the region that rank in the top thousand in the US. Their imaging, branding and e-commerce needs are a significant opportunity for DAM technology and personnel, and it’s happening right now.”

Lipsey then kicked off the conference with the baseline definition that digital assets are information assets, and they need to be considered in the context of a long and complex supply-chain. Recognizably embedded in the real world, “these assets are a shadow currency in contemporary life, operating outside corporate norms of audit and accountability.”

While yesterday’s digital asset has value as ‘a single source of truth,’ today its value is as a transactional device, “a core currency and handshake of engagement.” Thought provoking and intellectually generous, Lipsey is also the director of the newly stood up DAM Certification curriculum at Rutgers University.

Praveen Moturu presented the keynote address, Digital Assets, Digital Eco System & Digital Transformation: How Mars Inc. is leveraging Digital Engine & Platforms to connect the Digital Eco Systems. His mile-high view as VP and Chief Enterprise Architect illustrated the complexity of the organization’s as-is state as a ‘hairball’ while depicting its transformative should-be state as a true metamorphosis.

The DAM initiative (like the caterpillar) is subject to birth, growth and risks to viability before it can mature and take off. “Many caterpillars die without becoming a butterfly,” he advises, so take good care. Be judicious with what does and does not go into the DAM. And stay aware of the challenging environment. In particular Moturu cites these constant disruptors:

  • the always increasing volume of assets and distribution channels, spaces and contexts;
  • the variety of types and usage such as VR, AR and 3D;
  • and the everlasting need for compliance with external and internal regulations.

In the next address, Reframing the Conversation – Innovations in DAM, Collections Information, and Data at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Jessica Herczeg-Konecny described the the museum’s transition from departmental to enterprise DAM, and the process of migrating 60,000 assets to a new platform. With a small staff of ‘one and a half’ at her disposal, she acknowledged that “sun-setting the old system was hard,” and advised “it’s important to have a good  exit strategy.” With the bulk of the Institute’s 90,000 assets migrated, her role is now to ‘captain, cheerlead and champion’ the new system and its users – collectors, custodians and contributors at the organization.

Christine Gibbs, the Collections Database Manager at the museum, said that with today’s maturity of DAM technology, ‘APIs are the new hub,’ and is looking ahead to connect the new DAM to the museum CMS and to broadening its audience. In an interesting and practical example of DAM and the real world, Gibbs used asset data on physical dimensions of objects to calculate shelf space requirements of the physical plant – very useful info to have on hand when capital expenditure and budgeting opportunities come around! Another size-calculus illustrates the scope of digitalization of paper records into the DAM: over 17 square miles of documents. (In a wry Midwest gibe, Gibbs qualified this area as “enough to cover half of Manhattan.”)

Next, Gil Comeaux and Travis Garrett presented Lessons Learned from a 2 year DAM Expedition by Tyson Foods. Managing content at a major producer in the food supply chain is a big challenge given the constant critical updates – not only to package design (artwork) but also to accurate, and legal, labeling ingredients and nutrition. The DAM also serves packing and shipping – the labeling workflow of cartons with their contents and destination, automatically customized for tracking and accountability. Their small team (2 people) succeeds in a large enterprise by maintaining clear data standards (what should go into the DAM vs what should not), and extensive communication with a global user base (feedback,  training, webinars, surveys, and more). Operational keywords for the team were to ‘unravel’ and ‘refit’ a wide range of business processes and to set DAM – which they code named ‘JIVE’ – at the very center of the Tyson Foods digital asset supply chain. Based upon creative production and rework costs, they calculate the value of their 150,000+ assets at an estimated $16MM. And in case that valuation didn’t get the attention of their stakeholders to justify the initiative, they ALSO produced an amazing video, JIVE THE QUEST. Check it out, it’s a must-see!

Next we attended DAM Innovation: Technical Experts Address Your Really Tough Questions. The core challenges for DAM are their users’ expectations, said Lisa McIntyre from Nuxeo, citing how all consumers think of Google and Instagram as the be-all and end-all of UX. Other panelists chimed in about network speed (as in, ‘why is our corporate wifi so slow?’). The core opportunity is that with good connectivity, APIs today make integrations of on-prem to cloud-based apps and storage easier than ever. Of course, said Rich Carroll from Sitecore, we should realize that large media files like 4K and 8K still belong on-prem.

Regarding copyright, McIntyre summarized that if asset reuse is the raison d’etre for the DAM, the 1st priority for that implementation needs to be setting up rights and permissions properly. “Ask for permission rather than count on forgiveness – you’ll never go wrong with that.” To that very point, in a later session we were reminded how Taster’s Choice used an image without permission on jars of freeze-dried coffee resulting in a good-to-the-last-drop $15MM legal settlement.

The panel then tackled distinctions between Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Many (or most?) DAMs feature some sort of AI under the hood. “AI has real use cases and value in DAM,” says Jim Hanifen from Brandfolder.

He polled the audience for a show of hands:

  • How many of you are using AI now? (one hand, maybe two)
  • How many of you want AI? (about a dozen)
  • How many of you have budgeted for AI (zero).

As we pondered these results, a comment from the audience comment broke the silence.

“We had to turn our AI off after one day. It was kind of psychotic!”

(More on this in the last session of the day.)

Neil Grant from Tenovos explained a bit about Machine Learning, and one of the ways AI seeks to improve itself  “Machine learning is about looking at large datasets, and it learns by looking at the data around search results, to identify patterns there.” Datasets can be quite large in DAM (though nowhere near as big as those in ecommerce, downstream of DAM), and applied learnings can help DAM managers know more about their users and how their assets are used, and even ‘heal’ metadata.

Finally, product development by vendors is, by definition, ahead of user adoption. Brandfolder’s Henifen is sure that “our tools are far beyond our users’ knowledge of how to make use of them.” How is a DAM practitioner to cope? In the next panel, DAM’s Role in an Integrated Technology Environment, Michele Dickinson Heuer, lead Digital Asset Manager at Nestlé Purina Petcare North America, says “it’s important to try what’s in the box, and question how one is working,” before clamoring for new (or newfangled) features. At Nestlé , best practices are to focus on the tools at hand, support superusers, achieve wins consistently (small ones are valuable!) and gain DAM champions in the process.

Introducing the closing panel, Why Metadata Matters, Chair David Lipsey posed the challenge question, What are Ostraca?  hinting that ‘it’s the original metadata.’

Pottery shards are artifacts in the archeological story, and ostraca, as objects inscribed with writing are indeed akin to assets tagged with metadata. They lend additional meaning, importance and value to the set of objects telling that story. Metadata, Lipsey says, “is the spirit of a physical, intellectual and creative asset.” Does the alchemy of spirit and intelligence beget life and… personality?

  • “Our AI is a comedian,” says Kim Johnson of Hilton Hotels.
  • “Ours is a sociopath,” says Charlotte of Coty, Inc. “It mistook chrome nail polish for a knife.”
  • “We researched DAM for 7 to 8 months and leapfrogged right to AI,” says Anne Adami from VideoFashion. “It’s improving and learning really well.”

The ability for AI to thrive at VideoFashion is directly related to its environment. VideoFashion is an eponymous single brand holding exclusive rights to its video assets: it’s the largest private fashion library and archive in the world, encompassing 43 years of models, runways, haute couture, glamor and celebrity sightings. While their AI was highly skilled ‘out of the box’ in OCR (optical character recognition, or ‘reading’) and speech to text (‘transcription’), Adami was able to provide it with hundreds of scripted shows for its core education, and set her AI up for machine learning success. Not everything, though: facial recognition still needed refinement.“We had to teach it not to identify Yves St Laurent as Henry Kissinger.”

A more challenging environment for AI is Hilton’s 6,000 properties, 6,000 websites and 6,000 sets of assets. Regional and local differences are critical components of the business, and it’s understandable for Johnson’s asset managers (‘the largest DAM team in the world’) to be amused by the AI, but holding it at arm’s length.

Coty is similarly cautious about next steps with AI. With 50 brands, 3 internal divisions and international differences to work with, one working solution is to support 3 metadata configurations – reflecting perhaps the differences of ‘spirit’ in how different region communicate and conduct business.

Here’s a bit of the lively Q&A with these panelists.

Q:  Do you support synonyms in your approved taxonomy?

A: Charlotte (Coty) – Yes

A: Kim (Hilton) – No (but we have a freeform keywords field)

A: Anne (VideoFashion) – Yes! If the AI recognizes the synonym, the AI will figure it out.


Q: What about usage rights; what is most important?

A: Charlotte (Coty) – Expiration and territory

A: Kim (Hilton) – Tracking usage across channels

A: Anne (VideoFashion) – No worries! It all belongs to us.


Q: What about archiving?

A: Charlotte (Coty) – Retire, yes. Delete, no

A: Kim (Hilton) – We have a live-archive-deep archive model for our assets. Licensed assets expire automatically

A: Anne (VideoFashion) – Never delete. Just add storage!


With two simultaneous content tracks to choose from, the excerpts above represent only a bit more than half of the offerings.. We had a nice opportunity to get to know other attendees in a more intimate round-table setting hosted by Pacific Media Technologies: What Happens Before DAM: The Risks of not Digitizing Physical Assets, which was so interesting we didn’t get to visit any of the other seven or eight round-tables happening nearby. Henry Stewart DAM Chicago packs a lot into a single day!


Feedback from the IEN 2019 DAM Practitioner’s Summit (Part 2)

This article is the second instalment of feedback about the recent IEN DAM Practitioner’s Summit from delegates who attended.  The first can be read here.  The responses featured in this article are as follows:

What were the most useful insights you gained from the IEN conference?

Jennifer Anna

A consistent thread at the conference revolved around challenges pertaining to stakeholder buy-in, support and user adoption. A lack of organization support and measurable change behavior results in a certain level of professional stagnation. The fate of the digital asset manager is the most interesting subject to me. Organizational support and adoption of digital asset management platforms can resolve many of the issues pertaining to a happy and healthy DAM (and DAM practitioner), e.g. metadata capture, rights managements, vendor selection, and I was pleased to see it addressed at the IEN DAM Summit.

Henrik de Gyor

Great for gaining insight across a number of industries with other colleagues working with Digital Asset Management

Alexandra Lederman

I found the panel on Rights Management helped me understand when/where/why I would recommend investing in a Rights Management product. The presentation on empathetic metadata helped me understand why I removed “Diversity” from my organizations taxonomy. I also really enjoy taking “tours” of other organization’s DAM systems (I wish there were more). I found it interesting to see how DAMs are set up, implemented, and used through a visual tour.

What DAM-related subjects are currently the most interesting for you and was that reflected at IEN?

Margie Foster

I’m interested in how other large organizations customize their DAMs.  It is great to meet with other DAM professionals, especially those that use the same tool I do.  The topics at IEN were great conversation starters and helped me make several new connections.

Henrik de Gyor

Tagging & Empathy

Vendor Selection, Management, and DAM Essentials

Elevating the Role of DAM Professionals Within the Organization and Beyond

Mark DiNoia

Anything to do with metadata is most helpful and interesting. Also the implementation (and fear of) AI. These topics were addressed at IEN in great detail in several presentations.

Alexandra Lederman

I am currently very interested in integrations, APIs, organization theory, asset life cycle, and system models and I personally did not feel that was reflected fully at IEN.

Do you think the ROI from DAM is properly understood by users? If not, what would help to demonstrate its value?

Frank DeCarlo

I come from an advertising/marketing production background, so in many ways I believe I look at DAM a bit differently than others who use it for another solution set or who see it closer to as a ‘nice to have’. For me, it’s been a necessity and a way of streamlining workflows for over 20 years, thus engrained that a DAM system, at a minimum, finds, distributes and protects assets that have been created or obtained at a cost. So, when well-paid creatives who are not using a DAM and spending unnecessary time in the ‘search’ or not being able to find it at all, I see operations generating a loss.

Henrik de Gyor

No. Still needs more work to constantly explain what’s it for, who is it for, where the value is to those who don’t realize it yet and when should they use it.

Jennifer Anna

No.  Companies and organizations tend to be reactive not proactive and lean towards technology solutions with direct financial drivers.  ROI has always been elusive for DAM systems beyond the efficiency arguments. At one point in time, there was a belief DAM would reduce headcount but it’s the opposite, DAM requires a spectrum of professionals with different skill sets.  Without tracking asset usage, cost savings can also be a challenging ROI argument to make.

The DAM community currently understands the need to advocate for the platform, workflows and most importantly organizational change behavior. We’ve evolved from focusing primarily on technology and moved towards thinking about people. We need to continue advocating but frankly, DAM vendors need to do a better job at marketing.  A few years ago, David Diamond wrote an article titled, “Five Reasons Why DAM is NO Photoshop,” which discusses the issues around the failure of DAM to become a common place software similar to the omnipresent software applications Photoshop, Dropbox, and Google Drive. I believe his arguments continue to be true today. We live in a digital realm where companies are beginning to chase after new technologies at every turn. Ironically, the one marketing technology designed to support all the others has done a terrible job marketing itself. 

Mark DiNoia

I think it is understood by users, but it needs to be communicated to management. This doesn’t always translate to ROI in dollars. In my experience, ROI from DAM is directly connected to getting the creative team to focus on their work of being creative and not concerned about file organization, metadata, etc. This will ultimately make them more productive and capable of delivering a more creative product.

Alexandra Lederman

Unfortunately, I do not. I think an actual workshop, not a presentation, with facilitators demonstrating their ROI with their real numbers followed by small groups and individuals working on their own ROI, and ending with a share out (including results, obstacles, surprises/unknowns) within the small groups and the whole conference.

Has DAM really innovated in the last five years and if so, in what ways?

Henrik de Gyor

Yes. Going on to the Cloud (instead of being on-premise). Having many more integration points to be a more useful rich media hub (via API) to many more spokes. Additional cloud services are able to add automated auto-tagging, transcription and translation, however all of these still need human verification.

Alexandra Lederman

I think the UX of DAM has improved which has enhanced user adoption. Cloud storage is another recent innovation that mostly impacts access, but equally important, I believe we will start to see further innovations as APIs advance and as systems thinking and mental models become more popular in society and the workplace as a whole.

What topics would you like to see discussed in greater depth by the DAM community?

Henrik de Gyor

What would maximize value for DAM for its users?

You have an operational DAM. Now what? How to move the DAM needle

Good and bad reasons to switch DAM systems

Jennifer Anna

Professional development and organizational governance.

Mark DiNoia

I would love to hear more about DAM successes versus DAM failures. My experience with DAM (searching for vendors, demos, purchase and implementation) has been very positive and am surprised to hear when other organizations have negative experiences. I think a great panel that could discuss the details with highs and lows would be helpful to anyone who is in the search phase of their DAM journey.

Alexandra Lederman

I would like to see the DAM community discussing how white the profession is and how we can make it more diverse (both in race and gender). Further, how we can use DAM to break down the patriarchal white supremacy that exists in the organizations we work for.

How do you see DAM developing over the next few years based on both what you know from your own experience and what you learned at this event?

Henrik de Gyor

There will many more be issues to address, fix and improve, so no lack of work for us working in Digital Asset Management.

Alexandra Lederman

It seems like there’s a big push for AI to assist with metadata implementation, but I don’t foresee it actualizing as smoothly as the technologists envisage. I do believe it will be important for Digital Asset Managers to learn, understand, and implement natural language processing in order to make AI actually useful to taxonomies and ontologies.

What was your overall experience of IEN and would you go again?

Frank DeCarlo

My experience of the #IENDAM over the past two years has been excellent. The IEN team are true professionals in how they approach all aspects of their informative and thought-provoking networking seminars. Demonstrating a true understanding of where the DAM community has been and where many of us perceive it is going (insert chuckle) I will most certainly be attending future events and look forward to more engaging topics that force attendees to take a real hard look at where they are in their DAM ambit. One of the most valuable attributes I find is the way in which IEN creates a close and intimate interaction between both attendees and speakers with such diverse backgrounds.

Henrik de Gyor

Very satisfying to meet with so many people working in the field of Digital Asset Management. Yes, I would participate again.

Jennifer Anna

Very positive. I appreciated the practitioner heavy panels and audience. The conference felt like a “safe space” to have candid conversations around the challenges and successes involved in the very complicated and difficult work we do as DAM professionals.  I would definitely go again.

Mark DiNoia

This was a very positive experience for me and I would definitely attend again.

Alexandra Lederman

This is my overall experience:

We need more voices and perspectives presenting and participating on panels.

We need to own that the DAM profession is very white and male. And we need to explore why it’s like that and how we can diversify our profession.

I was very surprised by all of the microaggressions displayed at the conference and geared towards assertive women and people of color.

I would definitely attend again because I love hearing different perspectives on DAM and calling out sexist presentations.


If you also attended the IEN Practitioner’s Summit, we would be more than happy to hear from you and present your valuable feedback.  Thanks again to the following DAM Guru members who kindly participated in this, and the previous article:

Feedback from the IEN 2019 DAM Practitioner’s Summit

The Insight Exchange Network (IEN) staged its second annual DAM conference in New York this January.  Last year’s conference, ‘The Digital Assets & Content Leadership Exchange’ garnered positive feedback from DAM Guru Program members, which was kindly compiled by Carol Thomas-Knipes and is available to read here.

We posed a series of questions to delegates who attended, the responses for which are presented below.  A number of common themes have emerged from this year’s round of feedback, including the importance of the Digital Asset Manager’s role, the misunderstanding of how to achieve and measure ROI, and the general level of interest aroused by discussions surrounding user-centric issues such as poor adoption due to insufficient training.

A lot of responses were collected, so we have separated the article into two parts.  The first includes insights from the following gurus:

The follow-up piece features the feedback from these delegates:

We would like to thank everyone who responded for giving us their feedback and allowing us to share it with the DAM community.

What were the most useful insights you gained from the IEN conference?

Tracey Wolfe

From Margie Foster in the Executive Roundtable:

 – Set up a side chat channel for DAM team kvetching. Important to commiserate regarding requests and issues from users. Venting is good – sometimes leads to solutions too.

– AI is not an OR situation (AI or humans). At this stage it is an AND – AI must be monitored, auto tagging reviewed by humans.

Anne Graham

My biggest takeaway from the IEN DAM conference was that despite superficial differences like the culture of the organization, type of asset, and location within the corporate structure, everyone is really dealing with the same issues. We’re trying to balance user access versus intellectual property rights, to educate our users and stakeholders on the importance of proactively managing assets, and looking for opportunities to automate to mitigate decreasing headcount. It’s helpful to come together with people who face the same issues and talk to them about their solutions.

Fred Robertson

The focus on end users was really interesting and repeated a lot throughout the conference. Empathy for them, investing in them, listening to them, meeting their needs, speaking for them, etc. We’re nothing without users and it was nice to hear so many folks talk about how they engage with their users and how hard they work towards rewarding them. Quotes like “walk the customer journey”, “meet users where they are” and “listen to the naysayers” have all stayed with me.

 I also especially liked the American Cancer Society (ACS) case study. That was an eye opener. It really showed the amount of dedication that can go into the process and reap huge rewards for everyone involved. Would love to see more of these. The 2018 conference had a couple of these which were also really great.

Pauline Lopez

The best part of the IEN conference were the insights it provided into a Digital Asset Manager’s role in their company, the support they are given or need to seek, and their expectations about their position. While other DAM conference place the focus on new cutting edge technology or impressive large-scale projects, this conference was a great reminder that the success of a Digital Asset Manager is not necessarily linked to the technology that they choose, but instead depends on the relationships that they can develop and the goals that they set for themselves.

What DAM-related subjects are currently the most interesting for you and was that reflected at IEN?

Anne Graham

I’m currently in the process of standing up a couple of new systems, developing a metadata schema, and updating policies and procedures. These initiatives take resources to implement and maintain. I think an overarching theme to the conference this year was effective resource management, whether it’s staffing, funding, or time. I found it informative to learn how DAM professionals are managing their current resources and how they’re trying to expand user services. It’s a topic that’s constantly on my mind.

Fred Robertson

I was quite taken with the ‘Elevating Your Role’ discussion. Allowing a panel to talk about how they came to the role and what they’ve done professionally seemed to be a crowd pleaser topic and one that would really benefit future attendees. It felt like a real and genuine sharing of stories and ideas. I’d love to see more on this topic.

 Coming out of the conference I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of sustainability and ways in which to illustrate the ongoing value in a DAM. Other ideas which were talked about that struck a chord include – committing to maintenance, scaling a DAM and building cross functional relationships. These lead me to thinking about finding ways to communicate with users that are not disruptive and allow for constant engagement with users and hopefully building a user community.

Pauline Lopez

I’m really interested in how to find success and adoption with your user base. While there wasn’t a direct panel on this at IEN, this thread often did come up across panels, since it’s such an important topic for Digital Asset Managers.

Do you think the ROI from DAM is properly understood by users? If not, what would help to demonstrate its value?

Anne Graham

Users don’t understand the value of media management because it’s only apparent when there’s a problem: assets are lost or corrupted, rights holders threaten legal action, or systems interfere with day-to-day activities. If everything is going as it should, media management is invisible to users. I think we as DAM professionals must move beyond the notion of ROI, because we’re always going to be cost centers, to one of added value. As an example, consistent and relevant metadata adds value to an asset. Regular monitoring and reporting ensure long-term preservation of assets. DAM is a value chain.

Fred Robertson

I do think ROI is understood by users. I just don’t think that they spend a lot of time considering it. While they do want to know what’s in it for them, they really just want to get what they need and keep moving.

 To that end, if we’re successful with our DAM, the ROI for users is their ability to work faster and our ability to relieve them of tasks which take up too much of their time or that are better suited as tasks for the digital asset manager. 

 Personally I think management doesn’t properly understand ROI as it applies to DAM. Mostly because they do not understand DAM. Their expectations need to orient more towards having a knowledge base that informs them first (about how DAM works) so they can better focus on ROIs which are both attainable and properly aligned the business need. They also need to fully support and participate in any change management initiative if they want a true and accurate ROI.

Pauline Lopez

Most users I’ve worked with do understand DAM systems can create an ROI through efficiencies gained and errors avoided. However, leadership may not always be so ready to embrace that a DAM can provide ROI, just because they are so far removed from day-to-day tasks.

 I think demonstrating the value of a DAM should be tackled in a few ways. Of course, you can survey your colleagues, gathering numbers about hours spent per task, see where a DAM can save you time and then calculate ROI in dollar amounts. Another approach that I plan on taking is to conduct the Maturity Model survey that Henrik de Gyor spoke about at the conference. I’d like to survey my department currently to get a baseline reading of where they feel we’re at and then continue to send out the survey every six months to see where we’ve made improvements. While the survey doesn’t explicitly relate to ROI, it does a good job of illuminating the frustrations employees feel when operating in the Ad Hoc or Incipient levels and the potentials available to reach Operational and Optimal levels. No one in leadership positions should want to know that their employees are operating based on outdated, unadvanced asset management models and that they’re not putting in any efforts to improve their situation.

Has DAM really innovated in the last five years and if so, in what ways?

Anne Graham

DAM has some significant innovations on the horizon, like AI and machine learning, which may be able to automate some aspects of asset description and preservation. However, I don’t think these have come to fruition. Skilled professionals are still needed to construct and maintain the data models, metadata schema, taxonomies, ontologies, retention schedules, and preservation rules. In some respects, the profession is cutting-edge. In others, it adheres to established practice in archival science, information science, records management, and digital and physical preservation.

Fred Robertson

This one is hard to answer since I’ve only ever been involved with DAM systems I have managed at any one time – which is not a huge variety. Without close examination of other tools it’s hard to know about innovations and difficult to pay attention fully to industry trends.

That said, over the past two years I’ve been involved in the implementations of two different DAM systems. In both cases I felt too many compromises had to be made because the chosen system either couldn’t do simple tasks or required expensive customizations for functionality which really should have been included out of the box. Developers put up too many roadblocks throughout these processes and failed to understand the most basic of needs of a DAM.

 Additionally, throughout both projects I was unable to participate in the process at a level that allowed my expertise to be a constructive addition to development. Here again is where I feel management and even operations or systems managers do not understand the role enough to allow the asset manager to be (at the very least) an equal partner.

 I describe those examples because they’ve left me to wonder why companies (large ones at that) are making sure poor system choices. Systems which show a lack of understanding or innovation in their functionality and the ability to fulfill many basic requirements as DAMs. I’m sure there are systems and innovations which I am unaware of. Admittedly it is an area where I feel my knowledge is lacking.

Pauline Lopez

I think that the image of a perfect end-to-end system that can take a digital asset from its inception to its final home in an archive has not really materialized. It seems that now the goal is to almost make the DAM disappear for the user. The Digital Asset manager continues to provide organizational structure and metadata for the asset through a DAM, but through APIs, the user accesses the assets in the environments where they need to conduct their work.

What topics would you like to see discussed in greater depth by the DAM community?

Anne Graham

Coming from a digital archivist background, I’m always interested in seeing how DAM/MAM vendors and professionals apply the OAIS Reference Model and the Trusted Digital Repository Checklist (ISO 16363) to the preservation of digital objects. I’d like to see more discussion of how adoption is being achieved, as well as dealing with obstacles.

Fred Robertson

I’d love to see more case studies like the ACS one this year. Also, less redundancy of topics or generic overviews – there wasn’t much of this, but a couple of times it felt like we were repeating ourselves. More success stories – or even failures – would be great.

 The Maturity Model discussion was a nice dive into the topic and I found it very useful. I would love to see something similar done covering Governance. A panel or case study with examples of how asset managers build a governance board and what their interactions look like. I think this would be tremendously helpful.

 I’d love to see a panel of systems and/or operations managers – not digital asset managers per se – but DAM Product owners or stake holders within large companies who can speak about the best ways to influence management and instill the need and importance of DAM. There are many stories about tools being purchased by companies where the asset manager is not included in high level conversations around system selection – mine being a first-hand example. I’d love to hear from people in those roles who understood the need to rely on an asset manager for input, to involved them in the process and were successful doing so.

 Lastly, I think a discussion around how to manage both work in progress (WIP) files alongside or separate from final marketing assets and creative file packages is a topic that begs a panel and/or a case study. I think it’s one of the biggest challenges for asset managers and was touched on at the very end of the conference during the final panel and left me wanting more.

How do you see DAM developing over the next few years based on both what you know from your own experience and what you learned at this event?

Anne Graham

It’s my hope that DAM practitioners can move the discussion of asset management from ROI to the value chain framework. I think that will elevate our expertise and experience within organizations and the profession. We have a lot to offer, but I don’t think anyone is currently taking advantage of our true potential.

Fred Robertson

This year’s event reminded us that Artificial Intelligence (AI) still has a way to go before it can be a reliable tool to use as part of any DAM system. But I do see it developing further and likely becoming a useful extension (in some form) of DAM systems in the coming years.

 My hope for DAM over the next few years is for greater adoption by companies large and small and (hopefully) as a result, larger asset management teams. For all our frustrations as asset managers and being (in most cases) a department of one, I feel the move towards building larger teams, either directly focused on asset management or through user groups or governance boards, that the role will continue to be elevated. I realize this is ambitious thinking, but I do think the needle is moving in that direction. No matter how slow.

 The unfortunate development I see continuing with DAM is the continued proliferation of add-on tools and feature sets which are either unnecessary or not universally useful. Various web products designed for social and/or third party posts – Amazon, etc. – which add complexity and confusion rather than providing meaningful functionality. I’ve been on too many sales calls where the pitch never really lands because the tool has to fit into parameters which are so narrowly defined as to be not relevant to the business case.

What was your overall experience of IEN and would you go again?

Anne Graham

I really enjoyed the intimacy of this the IEN DAM 2019 conference. I felt engaged by my fellow attendees in ways that I don’t at larger meetings. The panel discussions were provocative and conversational rather than didactic and I especially enjoyed the discussions that sprang up organically between sessions. I will definitely return.

Fred Robertson

My overall experience was very positive. I’ve been to both IEN DAM conferences and I would go again as well. I think as it evolves it might need to think about new ways to engage repeat attendees who seek further development and communication with their colleagues and who might not need to attend each panel or presentation. I’m not sure what that looks like exactly, because I really do love the intimacy of the room and the way in which we’re able spend focused time discussing things with our table mates between presentations. I liked the breakaway portion in 2018 where we formed groups and collaborated, but again, I’m not exactly sure how that might work if brought back.

 Ultimately the opportunity to meet and talk to other DAM professionals is the real reward. I leave each day wishing I had more time to talk with more attendees and share experiences of working in Digital Asset Management.

 This year’s conference was significantly shorter than last year – a day and half instead of nearly three days – which was unfortunate. I’m sure there was good reason to shorten it but would have loved at the very least a second full day.

Pauline Lopez

I thought IEN provided a great alternative to vendor-heavy conferences. No one was there trying to sell you anything and you got to hear from DAM veterans with 20+ years of experience under their belt. I really found that valuable and I would go again.

The second part of this series presents more feedback from other IEN delegates.

Insight Exchange Network 2nd DAM Summit, New York, 24th-25th January 2019

This post was contributed by DAM Guru member, Jeffrey Marino.


Bring on a DAM Happy New Year at the 2nd Annual Digital Asset Management Summit 2019, hosted in NYC by Insight Exchange Network. The conference takes place on January 24th -25th next year and promises to highlight and elevate the importance of effective digital asset management strategies for the enterprise.

We hereby resolve to meet up with DAM Guru Program members and to bring you a full report on the business-critical topics presented in the sessions. We’ll listen closely for insights and best practices across the entire spectrum of Digital Asset Management, including:

  • The DAM value proposition
  • Metadata, mindset & AI
  • Systems integration
  • Platform fit
  • User Experience and adoption
  • Brand library, archive and history

IEN is a new nexus of information and expertise for DAM practitioners. Last year the conference debuted as The Digital Assets & Content Leadership Exchange:

“The overall sentiment was that the IEN event was a success and the fact that the majority of attendees were DAM managers and professionals (as opposed to vendors) resulted in a more personal and expertise-based event.” [Read More]

The 2019 Summit again brings together experts in a wide span of business categories ranging from broadcasters to e-commerce, retail, food and packaged goods, non-profits and content marketing. Among others, we are looking forward to hearing updates from Dan Piro at NHL and Sally Hubbard at PBS (both of whom we mentioned in our Reflections On The 2018 Digital Asset Symposium), and we will certainly welcome the perspective of all of this year’s presenters, including heavyweights like Amazon, Adobe, Dell and Turner Sports.

The agenda is a balanced mix of breakout and networking sessions, four in-depth case studies and five panel discussions (one of which, Vendor Selection, Management, and DAM Essentials, is moderated by one of our very own: DAM Guru Ralph Windsor.)

Let’s meet up! (yes, there’s a cocktail hour too). Please visit the 2nd Annual Digital Asset Management Summit 2019 website for more information and to register to attend.

DAM Guru Program members: be sure to use code M123DNDG15 to get a 15% discount on the cost of the Summit.

Henry Stewart DAM San Diego 2018 Conference Review

This article was contributed by DAM Guru member, Lisa Grimm.


Although I’ve been a regular Henry Stewart DAM NY attendee for years, this was my first visit to the west coast’s version of the event, and I was pleased to see that it’s grown to be nearly as large as its east-coast counterpart (with the added advantage of having beautiful November weather). But perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this year’s conference the variety of organizations sending speakers and exhibitors; while I’d seen previous DAMLA programs had been very much media and entertainment-industry heavy, DAM San Diego was very well-balanced indeed. Yes, there were the expected studios and media conglomerates with welcome knowledge to share, but also a wide range of museums, arts and tech speakers. DAM has clearly moved beyond the CPG and advertising spaces, and its importance is being recognized across an ever-wider range of industries.

But while the places DAM is deployed grow ever-more varied, its foundations remain rooted – and rightfully so – in metadata and operations. I was thrilled to be asked to speak on the metadata track, with my presentation on The Seven Circles of Metadata Hell; I suspect everyone in the DAM field has been in the position at some point in their careers where they have been asked to justify the cost of hiring expert librarians and data managers to oversee metadata creation and maintenance, and seeing it continue to get such a focus at every Henry Stewart DAM conference brings joy to my librarian heart. (Did I mention I have my nerdy t-shirts categorized by node and sub-node in my closet? For example, I have Star Wars, Star Wars:Running, Star Wars:Beer and so on, plus Disney, Disney:Parks, Disney:Musicals, Disney:Musicals:Parody, etc. – this is totally normal behavior, even many years after you receive your MS-LIS).  It’s such a core part of how DAM works (or doesn’t work, when it’s not staffed properly), and it’s so important that decision-makers understand what they need to do before signing the big checks, and continuing to spread that knowledge underpins the growth of the industry.

And as that growth continues, the range of roles and responsibilities continues to evolve; I very much enjoyed moderating a round table on DAM career options, with people at many varying career levels and from many distinct backgrounds, but it really suggested an opportunity for the wider market: there is a need for DAM-specific recruitment agencies (or, at least, recruitment agencies with someone on staff who really understand the field) and career planning help. Each Henry Stewart event is a great opportunity to continue to build our formal and informal networks, but as DAM professionals, I suggest that we rely on personal recommendations and word of mouth to get to the next role or career level to a greater extent than in most other tech and information management fields. Getting to meet some of the new-to-the-field people in the Future Digital Leaders Program was delightful, and I look forward to keeping in touch with several of them, but making sure we have paths onward and upward at all levels is important as we move the profession forward.

Finally, a personal note to the organizers, who do a wonderful job each time – thank you for pulling everything together once more, and thank you for making sure we had good tea! I never needed to break in to my personal tea stash (yes, I’m that person who brings her own tea everywhere, because finding good tea in the US can be a dicey proposition), and the range of caffeinated and non-caffeinated teas was ideal.

I hope to make it back to San Diego next year, and to return to New York again in the spring. I still have London on my DAM to-do list…

Organizers For Three Information Professionals Meetups Urgently Required

My DAM Guru colleague, Carol Thomas-Knipes, has recently let me know about the imminent closure of three Information Professionals meetup groups in Alberta, Space Coast and Palm Beaches due to the lack of an organizer.  They are as follows:

If any DAM Guru members (or those with an interest in this subject) are interested in taking over (or working with a group to share) leadership as organizer(s), this will prevent those groups from being shutdown.

As those who have organized a meetup group before will be aware, if the previous organizer has to withdraw then the group is removed. This means the current membership of the group is dispersed and anyone else who subsequently decides to open a group with a similar profile has to build up the membership from scratch. As such, if you are an information professional (e.g. a DAM Guru) and you live or work near the locations of the three groups, consider stepping up to the Organizer role. Organizing a Meetup is a great way to expand your DAM network in your area, drive discussion on relevant topics, and learn even more about what is out there.

Reflections On The 2018 Digital Asset Symposium

This article was contributed by DAM Guru member, Jeffrey Marino.


Digital Asset Symposium
DAS: New York

Hosted by The Association of Moving Image Archivists
June 6, 2018
Museum of Modern Art
New York, NY

“Who lives, who dies? Who tells the story?” sums up how history gets written – by the survivor. Last month in NYC we did not get to see the musical Hamilton (that’s a line from the show), but we did get to the Digital Asset Symposium for a lineup of thought-provoking presentations by media asset management leaders from non-profits, music entertainment, sports, documentary filmmaking and marketing technology. Interspersed among the expert sessions were sponsor presentations from the marketing technology, big data, big storage and AI industries.

All provided interesting insights on digital asset management processes, the life and survival of the digital asset, and its purpose. As kickoff speaker Nick Gold, Program Director from The Association of Moving Image Archivists said: “A media asset…becomes part of the human story and crucial in the hands of the storyteller.”

The core value of DAM platforms, vendor marketing often points out, is the efficiency and efficacy of maintaining ‘a single source of truth’ for digital assets. When I saw, however, the title of the keystone talk – “The Truth is a Lie” – I thought we might be entering a topical discussion around facts vs alt-facts. Instead we were guided to the arena of quantum physics by Chris Welty, a professor of Cognitive Computing and Sr. Research Scientist at Google. Peeling back the onion on what he called ‘the super-positioning of reality,’ he refreshed us on how photons coexist as both particles and waves, i.e. in two different realities, until observed.

Photo credit: Zachary Zahos

In another example, Professor Lora Arroyo, Chief Scientist at Tagasauris, displayed a landscape image: is it Sunday Mountain, New Zealand; or is it Minas Tirith, Gondor? The image is of course both – its reality depends on the context of the viewer and the descriptive bias of the image.

Their point: because of super-positioning of reality, it’s inevitable that digital asset metadata is inconsistent. Welty cited studies of how people are unable to agree on simple commonalities (such as the color of a flower) or even simpler ones (such as, is this a flower?). Accuracy in metadata, he posited, not only requires definition of what something is (i.e. blue) as well as what it is not (i.e. not monochrome).  That means more metadata. To take on the extra tagging, and to even out those inevitable inconsistencies, Arroyo described how groups of people who are not subject matter experts are able to derive metadata for images better than, well, professionals. Tagasauris packages this as a service called QrowdTruth.

In the next session, “Archiving Human Rights Video: Planting Seeds of Preservation Throughout Production,” Nicole Martin of Human Rights Watch countered the previous discussion by espousing the value of ‘fixity’ for digital assets. The standpoint of HRW is that original, unchanged data are primary legal evidence relevant to real people in the context of their harm or disadvantage. HRW’s processes mandate original asset preservation in its exact original dataform, even ensuring that cloning drives are write protected. Only after such preservation (‘fixity’) is in place do the additional tagging and transcoding of assets and the creative production processes begin.

On the commercial side, we next heard from Randa Marakarah in “Bridge the Gap: Unite Content and Customer Intelligence for Audience Intelligence and Growth.” Randa described how his company, Transform, mines the engagement activity of OTT consumers (aka cord-cutters, the streaming broadcast audience). Transform seeks to provide metrics that influence the development or even the story arc of creative programming. Perhaps such data mining will help improve the accuracy (or at least the gross misdirection) of the targeted ads I get. Fingers crossed!

Sally Hubbard of PBS led the “Smart Stacking of Data and Information Services” session, shedding light on differences between ‘Big Info’ and ‘Big Data.’ Information Science, she explained, is the internal process of storing, transferring content with precision and fixity. Data Science, on the other hand, is the external process of discovery and analysis, seeking to discern linkages that are (or might be) actionable. The symbiosis of the two is that while the library process of adding information increases the basic value of the assets, the analytics process increases market value for the system through predictions based on probability. And we should be mindful, as Gian Klobusicky, Sr. Data Scientist at HBO said, that “probability is logic with uncertainty.”

“Smart Stacking” also is how managers yoke the yin of information with the yang of data, leveraging not just technology but also the human factor. People have an innate ability to process information and perceive context better than algorithms and most importantly, they are the ethical backbone of the ‘stack.’  Dalia Levine, Ontologist at HBO pointed out, “As librarians we are trained explicitly for the presentation and management of data in as factual and unbiased a manner as possible.” Bottom line, ethics is a personal process for every employee at the organization. “Bias,” added Hubbard, “is present in all levels and needs to be monitored and corrected as it occurs.”

Dan Piro, Director of the Digital Asset Archive at the National Hockey League, recapped a big project implementation: capturing and cataloguing 100 years of hockey images, film reels and video from all kinds of formats. Because this was NHL, he was able to throw a lot of resources at it. Without revealing budget, he mentioned that the first vendor contracted for digitization got overwhelmed by the scope of the job and had to renegotiate terms. NHL not only agreed but also added a second vendor to keep the project on track. What drove the big spend at NHL was the very high value of the league’s Centennial for the organization. Piro cheerfully said, “clearly the DAM would have high value once in place, but it terms of actual ROI – who knows?” For many of us, budget and ROI are painful sticking points in getting implementation off the ground, but Piro and his team seized the opportunity to rush the open goal (so to speak).

In 1967, the Montreux Jazz Fest was founded with a combined mission: to stage world-class music performances and to document it all in photos and video for archive, research, education and innovation. Dr. Alain Dufaux, Head of Operations and Development, Metamedia Center at EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, or Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) described how this created a huge store of assets on many formats, even noting that the Festival was a very early (1991) adopter of HD video. Preserving the assets has created several petabytes of digitized archive. With 14,000 master audio recordings, 11,000 hours of video, and over 100,000 photos, it is no wonder that they are experimenting with new options: recordings of Miles Davis and Deep Purple are already stored biochemically on DNA. Innovations driven by the Center include automated defect detection and correction for video; sound ‘bubbles’ that improve the audio experience in the open environments of the library; and interactive capabilities for virtual remixing and ‘open mic-ing’ of Montreux performances by casual visitors.

The closing keynote featured production team members of the Netflix documentary series, “Bobby Kennedy for President,” which streamed this year, the 50th anniversary of his assassination.  This kind of film, they discussed, is a vast process of asset discovery, requiring diligent detective work, a prodigious amount of time, and the tried and true method of talking to people and following lead after lead. The team focused on finding folks who were actually present during the political campaign and created new assets (interviews) to play against old assets (footage often never before archived). The film includes, for example, a clip of a doubtful Bobby Kennedy, which aired only once in 1968, adding a darker color to the myth of Camelot. “It’s the golden age of retrieval,” remarked Archive Producer Rich Remsburg, who researched and delivered assets from sources ranging from ProQuest, to local TV stations, to eBay. Series producer Elizabeth Wolff wryly remarked: “The story gets told only from what’s digitized.”  The story of this film illustrated that finding truth in the data is absolutely driven by digital asset management’s core value: discoverability.

At this Digital Asset Symposium, the presenters generously reviewed their own best practices for sourcing, managing and standardizing metadata. We peeked under the hood at naming conventions and schema, and got bird’s eye views of building and staffing an asset management system with the tools and automation available today. And we looked to the future, where automation is at the top of “the AI Ladder” and currently evolving from its data foundation (Big Info), analytics for insights (Big Data), and machine learning leading to true AI.

But the future is now. Logan Ketchum from Veritone (one of the conference sponsors) reminds us that “Artificial Narrow Intelligence” is already at work in every single use-case based DAM platform on the market. And as we yoke multiple engines together – including the processes and stacking discussed in this conference – it means we are not only solving for our digital asset needs, we are also injecting life into an AI operating system…

And, as we learned from Jurassic Park, life will find a way.

Jeffrey Marino is a Digital Asset and Project Manager at WordCityStudio, Inc . He has worked in broadcast news, documentary, advertising technology and DAM. He recently received his MS in Media Management at The New School and is an active member of DAM Guru.