by Geoffrey E. Bock, Principal
Bock & Company 2006
As a cutting-edge advertising agency with a portfolio of brand named retailers, G A Communications prides itself on understanding its clientele and capturing their marketing needs. Managing the media campaigns for major national and regional grocery chains is a race around the clock—continuous promotions, time-sensitive changes, and the ever present appeals to consumers' tastes and wallets.
Consumers need to connect the visual information they find in newspapers, on television, and on the Web with the fresh foods and packaged goods they buy in supermarkets. In the grocery industry, advertising drives sales. Yet in this high-volume, low-margin business, retailers also need to control their advertising costs and focus on the effectiveness of their spending.
GA Communications competes through its technology investments to expedite the production of electronic and print-based advertising. “When you launch an advertising campaign, you need to have a clear understanding of what visual assets you have,” says Marc Konik, vice president of information technology. “The key is to consolidate all your assets and make them available across the enterprise.”
To this end, GA Communications first acquired Cumulus from Canto in 1999 and has steadily developed an enterprise repository of digital assets—including product photographs, logos, and page layouts—for its major accounts. GA Communications now manages upwards of 400,000 assets, and adds more than 10,000 new assets per year.
Always an innovator, GA Communications adopted QuarkXPress as a desktop tool for interactive page layout and design in the late 1980s. Over the years, the company has steadily sought to implement online work flows that link the steps in its graphic design and production processes.
As an enterprise scale digital asset management (DAM) solution, Cumulus has had a major impact on advertising productivity. When developing a single page display ad or multi-page promotional brochure, the creative team working on the account can quickly locate the product photos they need within Cumulus, and then incorporate them into a page layout tool such as QuarkXPress, to produce the advertising copy, suitable for a newspaper ad or in-store brochure.
No longer do photo archivists or production traffic coordinators need to sort through the collections of digital files that are randomly stored on hard drives and CDROMs, or order new photo shoots for the images they cannot find. All of the assets they need are available online, organized and tagged by SKU numbers and keywords.
Thus a traffic coordinator, responsible for coordinating the contents of a display ad or promotional brochure, can:
“Using Cumulus to expedite the production activities of our creative teams, we've cut one week out of a three week process,” Konik reports. The net effect for grocers is more affordable and effective advertising campaigns.
Moreover the business benefits of Cumulus are not limited to activities of the in-house creative teams. Managing digital assets within a central repository is only the first step towards a wide range of business applications.
GA Communications also relies on Cumulus as the platform for a Web-based self-service advertising environment. Store managers can now easily produce their own advertising materials—such as in-store signs and the copy for local newspaper ads. Here's how it works, as shown in Illustration 1.
Store managers can do all of this on their own, without involving the creative teams back at the agency. This in turn reduces advertising costs. Creative teams do not have to spend time on local advertising. The end result is a win/win situation—an online environment where store managers can easily develop the professionally produced collateral for driving their own advertising initiatives.
This is only one example where GA Communications is continuing to focus on improving the effectiveness of its creative teams and enhance their abilities to produce promotions for brand named retailers. New tools and technologies delivered over the Internet help to ensure that the agency remains competitive and delivers high value services to its clientele.
New products and solutions from Canto help fuel these initiatives.
Specifically, Canto is now adding enterprise workflow capabilities to its product portfolio. Canto has recently announced CanFlow, an enterprise workflow product for DAM, that easily structures and links the business processes across an organization. CanFlow promises to transform how creative teams, developing advertising copy, will work with colleagues in related departments—such as merchandisers who decide on the products and pricing for promotional events—to improve business processes.
Once it deploys CanFlow, GA Communications will be able to accelerate its advertising production schedules and remove many of the repetitive, manual steps that hamper its business processes. Using CanFlow, merchandisers are going to be able to work seamlessly with the creative teams who develop the advertising copy.
CanFlow is based on a set of customized workflow templates, as well as integrated trigger and event mechanisms. CanFlow delivers the workflow design environment—a graphically oriented workflow design tool—for specifying the steps in the business process, and identifying the tasks that the various participants need to perform. Finally, CanFlow provides a management environment for tracking workflow activities. CanFlow capabilities are based on widely-adopted open-source technologies, including XPDL, a workflow standard developed by the Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC).
CanFlow uses email and taskbar “alerts” for notification. Participants in a workflow receive notifications about the tasks they need to perform. They then click on the embedded links to do their work—CanFlow automatically invokes the relevant enterprise applications for performing the tasks.
Here's an example of how CanFlow might work at GA Communications.
The net effect is a seamless business process where merchandisers and creative team members can collaborate across departmental boundaries.
Canto is also focusing on the experiences for graphic designers, and making it easy for them to find and manage assets, directly from their page layout environment. With the release of Cumulus 7, Canto is tightly integrating its DAM system with QuarkXPress and QuarkXPress Server 7, to create a seamless online experience for creative professionals.
As shown in Illustration 2, graphic designers can launch Quark and directly log into Cumulus through a customized pull-down menu and a new interactive palette. While working within Quark, they can then select either individual images and graphics, previously stored Quark documents, multiple Composition Zones, or a Job Jacket, all managed within Cumulus. To do their work, they can drag the selected items into the QuarkXPress editor, and drop them on the editing canvas. Then, when they are finished, they can refile their work items within Cumulus, again using the Cumulus functionality available within QuarkXPress.
Using QXPS Companion, another new option with Cumulus 7, the repository will automatically catalog all of the Quark project files and link preselected assets to the files. As a DAM solution, Cumulus manages all of the access rights—ensuring that only individuals with appropriate privileges can access the assets, and that assets checked out by one person cannot be overwritten by another.
As a result, designers will not have to spend time searching for images within the repository and manually importing them into their design environments. Rather, they will be able to focus on doing their work—refining the page layout designs, enhancing product images, creating the unique look and feel for an advertising campaign, and producing the copy that drives product sales.
For an advertising agency, the important part of an integrated workflow solution is the focus on the creative design processes of advertising. “The old model that DAM systems have used in the past no longer works for us,” says Konik from his perspective of driving information technology strategy for a national advertising agency. “Managing brand assets today requires a new kind of thinking. Cumulus 7, together with the upcoming CanFlow product and the tight integration with QuarkXPress, represent the new kind of thinking we need to move forward.”
With its emphasis on predesigned templates, an underlying workflow engine, and automatic access to an extensive archive of digital assets, Canto is changing the nature of marketing campaigns within the grocery industry. Canto is providing an integrated technology platform for transforming the business processes within an advertising agency. This is a flexible environment which can be easily customized for the business processes within an organization.
The new Canto solution—combining Cumulus 7, the integration with QuarkXPress, and CanFlow—provides the enabling platform. Now GA Communications and its clientele can leverage the value of their digital assets. They can use their assets more effectively to create the essential messages for consumers, and thus drive sales within supermarkets.