Should you buy a DAM from your creative agency?

Over the years, I’ve worked with many RSG subscribers who were roped into using a “DAM” from their advertising or creative agency.

The story is almost always the same:

  1. Company hires a creative agency to conjure up an advertising or marketing campaign  
  2. Creative agency hosts the assets they create on a cloud service, which they make available to their clients as part of the review and delivery process
  3. Over time, the agency adds DAM-like, lightweight services to their delivery service such as search, download, and commenting
  4. The agency then decides they want to go to market with a product, and in turn charges licensing fees to the customer to store assets in a multi-tenant, basic library

Invariably, companies outgrow this scenario as their requirements to apply and adapt assets become more varied, and integration becomes more important. I recently evaluated an agency DAM used by a Fortune 50 company, and the system passed only three of the ten core characteristics of a DAM.  

The cautions are clear:

  1. “Agency-ware” is usually less than it appears.  Avoid monikers.  When an agency says they "have a DAM,”  you may want to test if it even can do the basics. 
  2. The business and skill set needed for developing software is dramatically different from that of a creative agency. Would you also assume a chef could raise a pig, or grow vegetables, simply because she can cook those foodstuffs well? Probably not.
  3. Do you want to tie your asset repository to a creative-services relationship?  What happens when you want to switch agencies? I've heard many a nightmare about "trapped" assets.
  4. An existing relationship is never a good reason to buy a software product from any particular company — especially if you’re buying software from a company whose core competency is services. 

In our DAM research, we rate not only how well 30+ software products can deliver on the basics, but also across a myriad of other technical criteria and strategic considerations. Be sure to have a look at an excerpt, or try out our selection tools.

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