When Image Is Everything

Systems manage digital media assets

Roy Leamon, EStyle.coms ninth employee, joined as manager of graphics production in March 1999. But it wasnt long before Leamon discovered he was in over his head.

EStyle is a Los Angeles-based retailer geared toward mothers with growing families. Just the task of managing its digital assets forced Leamon to take on an assistant. "Basically, everything was manual, and I was the only one doing it," he remembers. "That was very intense."

As the person in charge of the images for eStyles Web sites, catalogs, advertisements and marketing materials, Leamon had to produce multiple versions of images, edit them to size, ensure color fidelity between images and products, and keep track of the image information. And he did all this in addition to setting up photo shoots, taking photos and accepting images from other sources.

At last years Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Leamon came across MediaBin, a provider of what it calls "brand asset management software," an application designed to curb the tedious task of dealing with various versions of images for various purposes. After talking with the Media-Bin representatives, Leamon rushed back and convinced eStyles management it needed the product.

Other companies such as Artesia Technologies and WebWare include brand asset management features similar to MediaBins as part of their digital asset management platforms, which allow media companies to handle all of their digital assets, including audio and video content.

Analysts predict these kinds of image management systems will become necessary tools for companies conducting business on the Internet. Mark Kindy, a business consulting partner in Andersens technology, media and communications industry practice, says that in an increasingly Internet-focused business world, every company is a media company.

For instance, automaker General Motors owns 5 million still images, 2,000 motion picture films, 10,000 video masters and 250,000 digital files, according to Kindy. "In this melting pot of bits and bytes, General Motors is a media company," he says.

The idea of managing those digital assets can be daunting, but software like Artesias can help. "GM generated $25 million last year, licensing their brand," says Sebastian Holst, Artesias vice president of marketing. "Thats financial value."

Artesia provides taxonomy management for assets, allowing a company to categorize and search through its entire collection of brand assets.

Automatic Graphics

Its not only graphics professionals who need access to media databases. More often, those looking for an image are knowledge workers — not users with Adobe Systems Photoshop on their desktops, says Burt Smith, MediaBins vice president of marketing. But because the production team, which is usually busy performing other tasks, controls the images, its difficult for anyone else to get access to them.

"Folks of high skill and complex jobs cant respond to me in the time I need," Smith says. With an application such as MediaBins, any employee "anywhere in the world can get what image they need, and not bother others to get it."

Leamon says thats exactly how eStyle is using MediaBins system. "Its enabling people across the enterprise to have access to those assets, instead of all the images having to go through the production department," he says.

When users access images from MediaBins database, they can choose which format they want it in, regardless of the original format. For example, if an image is a TIFF, when users select the image, they can ask for a JPEG and the image will automatically be converted on the fly.

MediaBin also contains a rich supply of metadata fields with information about an image, such as size, format, who created it and many other custom fields. The software integrates with large-scale content management platforms; for example, MediaBin has a partnership with Interwoven to provide tight integration.

To Coca-Cola, Ford Motor or GM, images are what people remember about the company, so its vitally important to present them well. The problem is the quality of images is difficult to control on the Web. MediaBins Smith says Coke puts considerable effort into ensuring the color red thats used with its logo is the exact shade it should be.

"Brand managers stay awake at night, thinking of their brands and if theyre being used correctly," he says.