I'm currently advising two Fortune Global 1000 companies on a vendor short list for their upcoming digital asset management procurement. Both of these companies are focused on centralizing their brand assets, streamlining the cost to create multilingual print advertising and catalogs, and addressing light needs around managing video and audio.
Both of these clients heard me speak about the DAM vendor marketplace at recent conferences in New York and London, and once I started working with them in an advisory capacity, the first question both asked was, "Some of the vendors on our list aren't in your research, or you didn't talk about them in your presentation. Why?"
The short lists these companies initially put together included both DAM vendors as well as digital marketing agencies. The former, as we point out in out Digital & Media Asset Management research, are primarily in the business of selling software. They make the majority of their revenues from software licenses and hone products over many years to accommodate common scenarios.
Digital marketing agencies, on the other hand, are primarily in the business of providing marketing services. They sell services to create brands, build ad campaigns, manage brand relaunches, and many other marketing needs. Occasionally, they also build custom tools to help their clients manage brand assets. Sometimes they host a common platform for all their clients (often based on the technology of one of the vendors we evaluate), and customize for their various clients as needed.
Digital marketing agencies are often entrenched in organizations for years, and may have a loyal internal client advocate selling them into other parts of any large global company. With one of my current clients, this was the case - one person was vehemently upset that the team wouldn't keep his favorite digital marketing agency on the short list for a DAM procurement, even though they didn't even sell a DAM product.
Understanding a vendor's core competency should be your first step before considering them for any short list. Coupling this understanding with a clear picture of your own needs will allow you to have the right combination to pinpoint vendors. If your needs are very simple brand asset centralization, perhaps your favorite digital marketing agency might be appropriate to host a central repository for you. But for large global organizations -- with dozens of agencies in multiple locations, enterprise integration requirements, and generating varied, multilingual and multi-channel output -- you need a serious piece of enterprise software.
Your preferred marketing agency likely has experience with many vendor tools, or might specialize in a few. But you should be sure to pick the tool that fits your scenarios best, and not take shortcuts by simply going with the one your favorite art director has experience with (or the one his company sells). Digital marketing agencies are a very important piece of successful brand management, but be sure to put them into the part of the puzzle where they really and truly fit.