It was Friday afternoon, March 21, roughly 48 hours before the curtain was to rise on ABC's live broadcast of this year's 75th annual Academy Awards ceremony, and Ted Sann had a problem. It was 3 p.m. in Manhattan and Sann, the chief creative officer and chairman of the New York flagship of BBDO Worldwide, the world's third-largest ad agency, had a creative team out on the West Coast still haggling over the final cut of a 30-second Oscars spot for client AOL Broadband. Would the ad pass muster back at headquarters? Time was running out.
Ad deadlines are always pushed to the limit for highly coveted spots during special programs such as the Academy Awards and the Super Bowl, when ratings peak and viewers are almost as interested in the commercials as they are in the show itself. But this time, the final cut was running critically late. It still had to be finished, then reviewed by Sann back in New York along with a half-dozen other BBDO executives and AOL. And that was just for starters. After that, the commercial would still have to be finalized and get network clearance from ABCa process that, under normal circumstances, could take days to complete.
In the past, the task would have seemed insurmountable, says Melinda Graham, the supervisor for the AOL Broadband account. "We would have been scrambling at the last minute over the weekend, frazzled nerves and a deadline breathing down our necks," Graham says.
But not this time. Thanks to BBDO's use of a new digital asset management system that lets the agency gather, organize, track and digitize its contentfrom moving images and radio spots to still photographsit took Graham only ten minutes to encode a final cut of the reel and send it from Hollywood via the Web to the AV department in New York, which then transferred the electronic file to Sann's set-top box for viewing in seconds. Meanwhile, copies of the ad were sent via the Web to AOL Broadband and viewed by the BBDO creative team, and from there, a quick copy of the tape was created and sent via courier across town in Manhattan to ABC. By 5 p.m. ET, close to quitting time on a normal Friday, Graham's team, and Sann, were already on their way home for the weekend.
The payoff? A review process that would normally take up to several days or more was completed in just hours, and at roughly two-thirds the cost to BBDO. Says BBDO North America CIO Dennis Pannuto, who helped to create the digital asset management program for the agency, "BBDO is known for the creativity of its ads, but in this economy and marketplace, we're finding that clients are looking for a little bit more."
Indeed, DAM helps the agency "bring costs inside, cut out the middleman, and keep margins competitive," Pannuto says.
BBDO is not alone in its push to do more with less. Driven by the sour economy, as well as falling information storage costs, faster computer processing speeds and fatter network bandwidth capabilities, companies from retail leader Target Corp. to pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca PLC are turning to digital asset management strategies to help them catalog, make sense of and leverage their fast-growing warehouses of informationwhether audio, video, text or all three combined. Companies just starting to experiment with DAM say it can help them not only cut costs, but also create new profit opportunities: Media giant Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (MSO) for example, is looking to DAM to help it sell specialized content to its customers.