Digital Asset Management: Sexy? You Bet


Establishing a system for storing, managing and distributing logos, photos, audio, video, design files and other digital assets to clients is probably the least sexy aspect of creative work.

However, agencies that fail to get the right assets to clients on time, every time, face losing accounts in a digitally driven marketplace that moves at warp speed.

For more than 20 years, I’ve been involved in brand strategy and integrated communications. In recent years, I’ve witnessed an explosion of digital assets in the creative industry as agencies continually expand the content they create for clients.

As technology improves, the types of digital assets used in concepts, pitches and campaigns are likely to increase as well. That ups the ante for creative agencies that want to attract and retain new business. All of a sudden, a system for managing the bulging assortment of digital assets starts to look sexy.

So, what is digital asset management (DAM) software?

Think of DAM software as a system for managing digital assets of all kinds and, importantly, eliminating convoluted digital folder structures, piles of job folders, stuffed file cabinets and hidden spaces that can mysteriously claim digital assets.

Good systems come equipped with tools that:

  • Monitor assets that are uploaded, downloaded and shared, assign and edit tags for assets and group assets according to user governance and access.
  • Allow users to quickly find and retrieve appropriate files to send to clients.
  • Incorporate core features that make sense for an agency’s business, such as converting files to the necessary formats on the fly.
  • Utilize a secure, always-available platform such as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or cloud-based software to eliminate the need for on-site IT support.

With global competition for business at an all-time high, running a creative shop without a centralized repository for managing digital assets is a recipe for disaster. A single campaign may involve an internal creative team with a half dozen or more individuals, each making changes on digital files as the work progresses. Retrieving the latest version of a file quickly becomes problematic absent an agreed-upon system for managing digital files.

Consider two missteps that could have been avoided had agencies relied on DAM software instead of mere recall.

  • A team dashes to deliver a new business presentation unaware that is missing last-minute revisions made by a managing director. He is on a client call and out of reach. Its next task? A repeat performance with the client, a financial institution, using the correct file.
  • Crafting a new campaign, an auto manufacturer requests car photos from a 2012 photo shoot. The agency rushes over photos with one glaring problem: The photos are two years old.

Think about the backpedaling required by both agencies to make things right. Not sexy.

Fortune 1000 companies differentiating themselves in a global economy can hardly afford to stumble in executing brand strategy across print, broadcast, web and social media channels. They need support from a foolproof digital asset management system that helps them bring creative content to market faster.

Let’s face it: agencies have to be nimble to survive.

Developing pitch concepts, producing client communications and winning new accounts are what matters. Spending hours searching for and retrieving files, burning CDs and tracking down the most recent files will eat up an agency’s billable time – and eventually, their business.

DAM systems can be the backbone of a smooth creative operation that manages, retrieves and distributes digital assets in a snap for internal teams and clients.

In this day and time, that’s sexy.


  1. Hey Nina, Thanks! I’m feeling much better about my involvement with the Dam industry now – maybe I’ll reconsider my wardrobe – this Tweed jacket a bit dowdy for this sexy business!

    One thought I’d like to add re agency use of DAM. Just as a company may employ an agency for creative and production purposes, they may also choose to use an agency to provide it with a media management/library service. In this arrangement the agency provides the DAM skills and hosts the service, the client can access its media anytime, anywhere, without having to worry about the technical infrastructure or the logical design, implementation and maintenance of the DAM system. The client can also have independent charge of access the DAM – giving users access to it without having to refer to the agency providing the service (so they can give other agencies access, for example). Outsourced DAM service.

    I know a number of agencies working this way using one DAM system to service multiple clients in a “multi-tenant” arrangement (some using Intelligent Media Server for example). This can enable several clients to get a functional DAM at an attractive cost, because it provides economies of scale and expertise. As the client’s DAM needs become more sophisticated, the agency can upgrade their access to the range of features and functions appropriately, possibly even providing a fully independent DAM instance for the client, when necessary. For the agency, it’s an additional independent service which may also provide an edge over competitors for mainstream projects and, while it’s not a “tie-in” between agency and client, it does keep the relationship going beyond specific projects, which is always useful right? So, DAM can certainly be a service business.

    Just popping down to Savile Row now … or maybe Carnaby street.

    Gerry Cavander
    Third Light

  2. As an agency dealing with clients on a daily basis, we use a DAM system as a tool for managing the client relationship, in both a presales and postsales environment.

    The system has helped us pitch for new business and gain clients, as well as service the needs of existing clients.

    Warren Singer
    Cambridge Technical Communicators Ltd.


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