What is a MAM-system?

Make your content locatable

If you create good content (images, documents, etc.) but cannot develop it to the fullest, because your content is difficult for others to find or not available when needed, then you should check out MAM systems more closely. MAM stands for Media Asset Management. The main task of MAM is to manage digital content in the best possible, redundancy-free quality and to pass it on to people or connected systems as required. The prerequisite is that the digital content or media assets are stored centrally and in a media-neutral way. MAM is also known as DAM, short for Digital Asset Management. If the main focus of the managed files is on videos, it is also called Video Asset Management (VAM).

What is a media asset?

Media asset is a generic term for every type of digital media. In more detail, a media asset can be an image, a photo, a graphic, a diagram, a video or audio file, a text module or an entire document (Indesign, PDF, Word, PowerPoint, etc.). In theory, it can be any content which contains information. A characteristic of every media asset is that it is subject to a creative preparation process. This creative process can be a photo shoot conducted by a photographer, an advertising video made by a marketing department or a graph created by a graphic designer. 

Why is a MAM system needed for media asset management?

Everyone who has created content knows the problem well: it is no longer possible to find high-quality media assets or, if they are found, they are required to be in a different format or in a different resolution. This leads to delays and additional costs, especially if the media assets have to be recreated. At the same time, digitisation promotes a rapid increase in digital content, which can quickly lead to an impenetrable content muddle (topicality, licensing, variants, etc.). The entire set of media assets need to be effectively organised so that they can be made available to all process participants (people and systems). This effectively means that the media assets must be available in a central location that is easily accessible at all times. And this is where traditional folder structures on the servers fail. Because colleagues from product management, for example, may not have access to the marketing folder or vice versa. A folder also has no interface to record content on systems, such as an online shop. In addition, it is not possibly to simply search for visual image information, unlike a text document.

An image is comparable to a tin can – without a meaningful label on the outside (for example, corresponding file names or metadata) you cannot see what is inside it. In a digital context, this means that without a visual examination of the content, no conclusions can be drawn about it, because it only becomes clear through looking at an image which people, objects, products, moods or backgrounds are depicted in it. On the other hand, if you are looking for not just one image, but all images which contain a specific motif, this can quickly become a Herculean task. Once the hurdles in research have been overcome, the question remains as to what the right format or the right resolution is, because not every channel can have the same files. In summary, it can be said that, given the abundance of media assets, it is simply no longer possible to use a traditional filing structure with manual screening and it is even less financially viable. This is exactly where MAM systems come into play. They create a central platform with media-neutral files that is always accessible and offer reliable support for efficient research and use of media assets.

Everyone who has created content knows the problem well: it is no longer possible to find high-quality media assets or, if they are found, they are required to be in a different format or in a different resolution. This leads to delays and additional costs, especially if the media assets have to be recreated. At the same time, digitisation promotes a rapid increase in digital content, which can quickly lead to an impenetrable content muddle (topicality, licensing, variants, etc.). The entire set of media assets need to be effectively organised so that they can be made available to all process participants (people and systems). This effectively means that the media assets must be available in a central location that is easily accessible at all times. And this is where traditional folder structures on the servers fail. Because colleagues from product management, for example, may not have access to the marketing folder or vice versa. A folder also has no interface to record content on systems, such as an online shop. In addition, it is not possibly to simply search for visual image information, unlike a text document.

An image is comparable to a tin can – without a meaningful label on the outside (for example, corresponding file names or metadata) you cannot see what is inside it. In a digital context, this means that without a visual examination of the content, no conclusions can be drawn about it, because it only becomes clear through looking at an image which people, objects, products, moods or backgrounds are depicted in it. On the other hand, if you are looking for not just one image, but all images which contain a specific motif, this can quickly become a Herculean task. Once the hurdles in research have been overcome, the question remains as to what the right format or the right resolution is, because not every channel can have the same files. In summary, it can be said that, given the abundance of media assets, it is simply no longer possible to use a traditional filing structure with manual screening and it is even less financially viable. This is exactly where MAM systems come into play. They create a central platform with media-neutral files that is always accessible and offer reliable support for efficient research and use of media assets.

What is a MAM system, in detail?

MAM systems are primarily databases. Hence the somewhat outdated expression “image or media database”. In addition to the central and structured management of media assets, the main tasks of a MAM system also include standardised imports and channel-specific exports. In order to enable a standardised import, the stored data is enhanced with comprehensive information or metadata. This metadata helps to classify and describe the stored data. The metadata is important for ensuring data standards and for simplifying later research for content. In order for data to be exported properly, a MAM system keeps all media assets media-neutral. Depending on the intended use (print or online), the required file can be outputted in various formats and resolutions – regardless of whether it is a direct download or an automated transfer to supplementary systems (such as the PIM system or online shop). For example, if a sales representative wants to incorporate a customer’s logo into their presentation, they simply need to choose the “Online” edition.

This is taken into account during the export, and the sales colleague will receive the logo converted for screen presentations in the RGB colour mode. It is therefore not necessary to make any additional format adjustments after exporting the logo. This means that even employees are able to use content properly without requiring the image processing solution (for example Adobe Photoshop) or knowledge of this. Some MAM systems are even able to optimise images and photographs during import (for example, by removing “image noise”) and immediately save them correctly. MAM systems also form the basis for integrated solutions such as editorial and content management systems, PIM applications or web-to-print solutions and automatically supply these third-party systems with the correct assets. The digital content is provided via an interface in online shops, on landing pages, e-commerce platforms, on one’s own website or in social media channels.

MAM systems are primarily databases. Hence the somewhat outdated expression “image or media database”. In addition to the central and structured management of media assets, the main tasks of a MAM system also include standardised imports and channel-specific exports. In order to enable a standardised import, the stored data is enhanced with comprehensive information or metadata. This metadata helps to classify and describe the stored data. The metadata is important for ensuring data standards and for simplifying later research for content. In order for data to be exported properly, a MAM system keeps all media assets media-neutral. Depending on the intended use (print or online), the required file can be outputted in various formats and resolutions – regardless of whether it is a direct download or an automated transfer to supplementary systems (such as the PIM system or online shop). For example, if a sales representative wants to incorporate a customer’s logo into their presentation, they simply need to choose the “Online” edition.

This is taken into account during the export, and the sales colleague will receive the logo converted for screen presentations in the RGB colour mode. It is therefore not necessary to make any additional format adjustments after exporting the logo. This means that even employees are able to use content properly without requiring the image processing solution (for example Adobe Photoshop) or knowledge of this. Some MAM systems are even able to optimise images and photographs during import (for example, by removing “image noise”) and immediately save them correctly. MAM systems also form the basis for integrated solutions such as editorial and content management systems, PIM applications or web-to-print solutions and automatically supply these third-party systems with the correct assets. The digital content is provided via an interface in online shops, on landing pages, e-commerce platforms, on one’s own website or in social media channels.

What is managed in the MAM system?

Image

Images, photos, logos, graphics etc.

Text

Text modules or entire documents

Audio

Radio spots, audio books, podcasts

Moving images

Videos about the product or event, or explanation videos

3D-Data

CGI and animation projects

What is metadata?

Metadata is structured background information about files that is machine-readable and evaluable. In a MAM system, it serves as a conveyor of information in the search for and retrievability and archiving of media assets. To do this, it supplements the standard information of a file (name, size, creation date etc.) with data and descriptions. The aim is to optimally describe the content of a file. In the case of a photo, for example, the standard information would be the date of creation, the location or information about the camera – technical primary data without any information about the content. Metadata describing the content is added to the photo so that the content that is actually depicted can be recognised, i.e. whether the photo is a person, a product or an object and which mood, colour or pattern is reproduced in the image. Even text in the image can be described using metadata. Information about versions, rights, licences and the permission to use or reproduce the photo can also be displayed using metadata. Metadata is essential for MAM systems. And the opportunities for making files visible with it are diverse. Therefore, the metadata recorded in MAM systems is often tailored to the individual needs of the users.

Who uses a MAM system?

Advertising companies, their partners and service providers

Marketing-Manager

Marketers who provide created content throughout the company.

e-Commerce-Manager

E-commerce managers who supplement their products with digital content.

Produkt-Manager

Product managers who create digital content for their products.

Translators

Translators who adapt content to other languages and regions.

Partner-Manager

Partner managers who provide digital content to third parties.

Photographers

Photographers who create visual content (take photos).

Press departments

PR managers who provide press releases or related material.

Dealers and branches

Retailers who use centrally provided material.

Digitalisation managers

The chief digital officer who drives the digital transformation.

What is the advantage of MAM systems?

The big advantage of MAM systems is the media-neutral data centrality. This not only provides an overview of actually existing and released files, but these can also be accessed from anywhere and at any time – via the web and without system requirements. At the same time, a MAM system enables intelligent indexing and structuring of the files for an efficient search and reliable provision to individuals or third-party systems. Because customers want to see the content on offer immediately, whether for informative purposes or for entertainment. The best content is of no use if it goes to waste in the hands of the creators and is not visible to potential customers. MAM systems therefore not only provide speed in communication, but they also ensure the use of the correct digital content by safeguarding data standards during import, administration and output. Incorrect formats, obsolete versions, duplicates which use up space, different variants, penalties for copyright violations or even the renewed creation of materials are a thing of the past with MAM systems. In the wake of digital transformation, MAM systems also form an integral part of digitisation measures.

How can you organise your media assets in the MAM system?

Tags

The media assets are provided with precise keywords (tags) and are indexed.

Categorisation

The media assets can be assigned to different categories or topics.

Structuring

The media assets can be stored in different folder structures.

Collections

Individual collections can be created regardless of the categories or folders.

Do you really need a MAM system?

Advantages over CMS, Sharepoint and Dropbox

First of all: yes. A content management system (CMS) is also a system for digital content in the broadest sense, but unfortunately it is only partially suitable for managing media assets. The main task of CMS is to publish editorial content on websites, blogs or online shops. Media assets are a supplementary medium to the texts and are therefore not the focus of content management systems. For this reason, media assets in CMS are not provided in a channel-neutral way, but rather, they are specifically prepared for each channel. Microsoft Sharepoint is also not the same as a MAM system. Digital content can also be stored and shared in Sharepoint, but only in folder structures and only on the pages and sub-pages intended for it. For example, the content created may not be

available globally, as it is located on specific sub-pages or departmental pages for which you may have no authorisation, or which you may not even know exist. Another point is that Microsoft Sharepoint only manages the created content, which is also channel-specific, and does not allow conversion of format. The situation with regard to Dropbox is similar, as it is “only” available as storage space for digital content.

In summary, it can be said that neither a CMS, Microsoft Sharepoint nor Dropbox can map the depth and functions of a MAM system or provide the main function of media-neutral storage and effective searching.

First of all: yes. A content management system (CMS) is also a system for digital content in the broadest sense, but unfortunately it is only partially suitable for managing media assets. The main task of CMS is to publish editorial content on websites, blogs or online shops. Media assets are a supplementary medium to the texts and are therefore not the focus of content management systems. For this reason, media assets in CMS are not provided in a channel-neutral way, but rather, they are specifically prepared for each channel. Microsoft Sharepoint is also not the same as a MAM system. Digital content can also be stored and shared in Sharepoint, but only in folder structures and only on the pages and sub-pages intended for it. For example, the content created may not be available globally, as it is located on specific sub-pages or departmental pages for which you may have no authorisation, or which you may not even know exist. Another point is that Microsoft Sharepoint only manages the created content, which is also channel-specific, and does not allow conversion of format. The situation with regard to Dropbox is similar, as it is “only” available as storage space for digital content.

In summary, it can be said that neither a CMS, Microsoft Sharepoint nor Dropbox can map the depth and functions of a MAM system or provide the main function of media-neutral storage and effective searching.

And how do you find the right MAM system?

Is your digital content increasing rapidly, and are you aware that you can only master your enormous number of assets with a MAM system? Congratulations on making this decision. Now all you have to do is find the right MAM system for you. Here are seven tips to help you quickly find your MAM frontrunner:

1. MAM listings and rankings

Listings provide an initial overview of the MAM solutions available on the market. Independent consulting firms also compare the various systems with one another and rank them. Some firms even issue MAM or DAM certificates. If your research shows that a MAM system has one or more awards, you can be sure that this MAM system is well established on the market.

 

2. On-Premise vs. Software on Demand

When choosing your MAM system, you should consider whether you want to host it yourself or use it as a service through the provider. With your own hosting, the application is operated on your own, local servers, which means that you are also responsible for the maintenance of the server. Alternatively, you can also use Software on Demand or Software as a Service (SaaS). Here, the responsibility for the application lies with the provider, including all the maintenance work and required storage capacity. In this case you only need the Internet and a browser to use the MAM system. There are also providers who can operate their MAM system in both models or even offer a combined solution if you should require this.

3. Open-Source vs. kommerzielle Software

MAM systems are fully effective if they communicate with other systems such as a PIM or a shop system in an integrative way. When working in combination with other commercial applications, it can therefore be difficult to integrate the systems if you choose an open source MAM solution. The warranty and support services that are usually not included in open source solutions should also be critically examined, because, at the end of the day, the MAM system manages your valuable content, which you use to provide your customers with unique experiences.

4. Future-proof range of functions / functional expandability

A MAM system should fulfil all the functionalities required, so that you get a comprehensive solution that you can start to use immediately, instead of investing in additional functions for which you have to pay a fee. At the same time, you should make sure that your MAM system moves with the times. Technological developments, for example, in the field of artificial intelligence, should not be some future dream, but a natural part of the application or upcoming developments within the framework of the product roadmap.

5. Interoperability and interfaces

Product communication is extremely important for manufacturing and trading companies. In order to optimally present the range of goods on offer, not only the product information but also the right images need to be available. The MAM system always provides these images. Therefore, when choosing your MAM system, you should not look at it separately, but always in conjunction with other systems such as ERP systems, PIM systems or online shops. In particular, it is essential to ask two questions: “how should my future MAM system receive the assets?” and “on which systems should my assets be used?” Get an idea of your IT system landscape and analyse which interfaces you need in advance. This means that you can directly query the interoperability of the MAM system and find out about the connection standards.

6. Multilingual context

If you offer your products on international markets in different languages, then you should ensure that your MAM system offers you the opportunity to use images and media regardless of the language. In this way, you ensure that consumers are shown your range of products in the catalogue or web shop in the language that is right for them. System-supported variant and version management is essential and should form an integral part of your MAM system.

7. Advice and consulting

A MAM system is “a form of software” for digital transformation, because the digitisation of marketing requires additional special applications. Therefore, when choosing your MAM system, you should pay attention to whether the provider is purely a MAM provider or whether it also offers complementary software solutions. In the latter case, the advantage for you is that the respective systems harmonise perfectly with one another, you are saved the cost of system connections and you enjoy great flexibility for future system expansions.

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