As an industry, we are seeing more and more variation in the formats required for any one piece of advertising. For videos, there are the different encodes needed for HD and SD broadcasts, for the various online video platforms, and for social networks. For print and digital, there are a plethora of different ad sizes and formats.

Managing all this volume can be complicated, especially if parts of production and post-production are outsourced to contractors. Compounding this issue is change management and approvals, where files are passed back and fro between clients, internal departments, and service providers.

How can agencies keep track of assets as they flow in and out of the internal workflow? This post looks at some possible solutions.

Name-based automation

Explore the option of extending your project management workflow to cover not just internal operations and departments, but also your service providers.

A good start is to establish simple procedures and protocols. Most agencies, for example, already use some sort of file naming convention to ensure proper version tracking. You may request for contractors to supply their files with a certain naming scheme. An example of a file naming structure would be:

Taking the file naming scheme further, consider implementing or building automated systems that can filter or automatically process action files based on their names.

It’s relatively easy today to implement an automation system that polls a designated folder or FTP on a regular basis, and, depending on the file name on the incoming asset, do things like sort it into the correct digital job bag, send it to a particular person, etc.

Portals and automatic ingest

Another possibility is to upgrade the way you receive files from your contractors. You might opt to use a portal system to handle incoming files from your contractors.

Rather than having your contractors manually name their files and upload them to cloud-based drop-boxes, FTPs, or email, a portal-based system makes it easy to ensure any incoming material is quickly and easily ingested into your workflow.

The contractors simply visit a web-based portal, fills in a simple form, which may include things like revision number, project name, and other identification, and uploads the file.

Based on the information provided on the form, the system can then name the file accordingly, and direct it into the appropriate parts of your project and asset management system.

Plug the portal in to your Project Management System, and you have smart solution that will process all incoming files based on the supplied information, place them into the correct digital job bag, and notify the relevant people of the drop.

Use metadata intelligently

Central to all of this is metadata. Whether we are looking at information about an asset from their file name, or from information embedded as part of the file, metadata is essential to your ability to keep track of files, as they move from idea to production to post production, and finally to delivery and post-campaign measurement.

Traditionally, as files are passed between departments, clients and vendors, every party has had their own way of identifying them. During the typical production cycle, an advertising asset may have its analogue identifying code rekeyed as many as 30 times. That’s 30 opportunities for a finger to slip, and cause a mix-up in ad asset identifiers.

In the USA, in particular, there has been a push to improve the trackability and identification of print, digital and broadcast advertising assets by using the standardized Ad-ID system.

Ad-ID functions like an ISBN, being a standard, universal identifier for a particular asset, so everyone in the production cycle uses the same identifying code for a given asset. An asset can be tracked as it is transformed into multiple formats, and through the hands of multiple subcontractors.

Ad-ID can also hold information like the asset descriptor, advertiser name, product, TVC commercial title, and other essential data, that can be accessed by authorised parties.

Even as Ad-ID gains momentum in the US, similar metadata schemes continue to be developed in other countries. These new identification systems will enable new and more intelligent ways of handling assets and metadata across the entire ad production workflow, regardless of geography, time zone and platform.