How Are Print Advertising Studios Dealing With Digital?


For many print advertising studios today, the slow but steady move towards digital work has already begun, as clients and agencies pivot towards the digital screen. But what lies in the future?

Hint: it’s not as revolutionary as you’d think.

First, some context: consumers are spending an increasing amount of time on digital screens like laptops, desktops, mobile phones and tablets – and research confirms this. Brand owners and marketers know this, and as a result, production houses and studios are supplying a growing amount of assets destined for digital ads, on top of the print material.

The print-digital story thus far

Production studios already supply a range of digital assets on top of the print material. We have layered PSDs that will eventually be cut up and built into web pages. We also have the frames that will be compiled into animations, as well as a variety of other materials.

We asked DDB Sydney Studio Manager Keira Tanko about these changes, and he told us that the workflow changes have been minimal so far.

“Instead of creating artwork in millimetres and 4-colour, you do it in pixels and RGB. That’s pretty much the only difference,” Tanko explained. “In the past, the bulk of our artwork was created in InDesign, now we rely more on Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.”

Regarding assets supplied by third parties, “We prefer the file sizes to be in-line with print first, because that requires high resolution files. Then we scale it down and convert to RGB for digital.”

With the volume of digital work so far, it’s a pretty simple matter of using logical file naming conventions and folders to keep the assets organized (digital media manager). But as the demand for digital assets ramps up, we can expect this to change.

Why we should be primed for an explosion in online assets

Over the next few years, we can expect the amount of digital material coming out of studios to grow. This is due to two big trends: native advertising and data-driven customization.

Native advertising: by providing content that blends into a given platform or website, marketers and brands can improve the likelihood of people engaging with the material.

Generally speaking, the better the content fits into the “visual language” of the platform, the better it performs. As you can expect, this means production houses and studios will need to deliver assets that are customised to mimic and fit into the hosting platform.

So for In-Feed Units, you might have snapshot-like, square-cropped images for Instagram. Specially prepared content for Promoted Pins on Pinterest. Images and GIFs for a BuzzFeed piece.

For Recommendation Widgets, there are different asset formats depending on the platform chosen, whether it’s Outbrain, Taboola, Disqus or Gravity.

Data: brand owners are increasingly seeking pin-point connections with individuals, rather than a “spray and pray” approach to their marketing. To do this, they use data such as location, language and history to deliver increasingly localized and personalized content to smaller groups of audiences.

The agencies that choose to play in this space will need to be ready to deliver a high volume of content that is customized for these audiences, while still remaining brand-consistent.

But native advertising and data-driven customization are just the tip of the iceberg. Multiply all that by the new mediums, devices, and screen sizes that are out there, and you start to get a clear picture of the volumes we are dealing with.

How will studios and production houses keep track of all this? How would version tracking work? What about late client changes – can we ensure that all the versions of an asset will be corrected? And how do you balance customization and brand consistency?

Working together, from end to end

Studios are increasingly looking at more robust tools to help them deal the explosion in digital assets. But it’s not just about asset management – agencies and marketers are also hoping to improve teamwork across projects. Everyone has to work together:

  • Clients, media, accounts, creative and production
  • Franchisors’ marketing departments and their local franchisees, dealers and distributors
  • Agencies, production houses and external contractors and service providers

Prompted by these challenges, agencies are unifying their asset management systems and their workflow systems – a move made possible by cloud-based technologies and APIs that allow disparate systems to work together.

By knitting together these systems, marketing and advertising teams can work together intelligently on projects and a range of assets.

For example, DDB Sydney is adopting a paperless workflow, with an online approval and asset management system. Accountability and visibility are central pillars of their new system.

“If there is a breakdown in process, it will be documented,” says Tanko. “At the moment, because everything is done via email, phone calls or face-to-face, jobs may stall in a particular department for whatever reason or deadlines may get overlooked – that’s all going to change.”

By using APIs and cloud-based technologies, DDB Sydney will get their internal systems to play nice with external services. As new systems are adopted, they will be able to use APIs to plug them in as needed.


The continuing evolution of digital advertising and marketing means new challenges for studios and production houses.

We need to find better ways of working together, and also deal with the high volume of deliverables. One possibility is to pull together asset management systems and workflows in such a way that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

(This post originally appeared on and has been syndicated with permission).