Skip to content
Back to list

A Bird's-eye View of Editorial Production with David Iscove of Cella

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Full episode transcript

Daniel Jester:
From Creative Force, I'm Daniel Jester. And this is the E-Commerce Content Creation Podcast. David Iscove is the creative technology practice lead at Cella who provides consulting, staffing and managed in-house agency services for creative and marketing teams. In this episode, we shift focus slightly from e-com to editorial content production, and we get a high level perspective on the teams that execute the requests and how they fit in with and support marketing at large. We discuss the important perspective that the life cycle of the asset is you usually larger than the production teams have visibility to.

David Iscove:
It's this misnomer that people think that the asset only begins the moment the photographer takes the photo or the designer opens Photoshop, but all of this upstream planning is absolutely crucial to inform the overall integrity of the file and the asset. On flip side downstream analytics and the performance of the asset is also really important to track as well.

Daniel Jester:
Just like Claire Carter again, from last week's episode, David will be participating in the upcoming photo studio ops forum on October 5th. The event is hosted by Henry Stewart Events and features six past podcast guests as speakers. Stick around to the end of the episode for details on how to register for that event. And now let's jump in and take a listen to this episode with David Iscove. This is the E-Commerce Content Creation Podcast. I am your host Daniel Jester, and joining me in this episode to today, David Iscove of Cella. David, you're the creative technology practice lead at Cella. First of all, welcome to the show. And then why don't you tell us a little bit about Cella and what you do there.

David Iscove:
Thank you. Super psyched to be here. I've been a fan of the podcast for some time, so happy to be in the driver's seat. Yeah.

Daniel Jester:
We just ask all of our fans to come as guests. It's like its own little insular world.

David Iscove:
The 12 fans appear as guests, right? Yeah. Kidding.

Daniel Jester:
Exactly.

David Iscove:
Just to provide a little background. Cella, we are an integrated end to end professional services firm focused specifically on optimizing and driving in-house agency performance for large scale brands. All of the consultants on our bench have really, really hands on in-house agency marketing operations experience. And we also have very deep technical expertise and really know what enables creative marketing and digital people to thrive.

Daniel Jester:
So these huge retailers we'll come to you guys, and you'll say, we want to stand up a studio. We want to stand up some content production. You guys have a full team of people who have expertise in every area, technology, staffing, operations, and that kind of thing to help them get up to speed quickly. They're learning the lessons that you guys have already learned. So they're not making all the mistakes that every new studio makes.

David Iscove:
That's right. I mean, we're all former creative operations professionals ourselves, and our expertise has been hard earned through a lot of pain and a lot of mistakes. And we want to assist our clients with voiding the same mistakes we made, but you're absolutely right. Large scale brands will come to us where, I mean, Cella really started to see a significant trend in regards to the growth of the in-house agency decades ago. And that's been our sole focus in terms of how we can provide solutions to our clients. Both from clients are interested in standing it up from scratch, so we'll provide financial modeling, the org design process improvement exercises and the technology infrastructure, which is what I oversee.

Daniel Jester:
We love process improvement. Just those words alone. Love them over here. So David that's exactly why we brought you on the podcasts today is to learn a little bit from your expertise. And we had a conversation, I guess, was it earlier this week or last week around the current state of content production and our show so far has been pretty specific to studios, pretty specific to product photography, but we have had some guests who live in the editorial world a little bit. We want to shift focus for this episode a bit towards the editorial side of e-commerce needs. We talk a lot about e-com products, photography, the process there's a lot. I mean, it's really a science at this point. The editorial side still lives very much in sort of the art half of the brain, right? It's a lot going on. There's a lot of variables, a lot of unknowns and it's just a very different sort of animal from like E-Com products, photography.

Daniel Jester:
We wanted to talk to you today and zoom out a little bit and get what we're kind of calling this bird's eye view of content production and take a look a little bit at the relationship between marketing and content production teams in studio or in the in-house creative agency. Because on the editorial side, a lot of these requests are coming from the marketing team. On the e-comm side every business is a little bit different. On the product photography side every business is a little different where that process lives, but pretty universally the editorial content requests come from the marketing team. So I guess a place to start with this would be, let's talk a little bit about the current state of marketing, not just in visual content, but just the current state of marketing for a large brand or retailer in 2021. What challenges are there? What are we seeing? What are some of the trends? What can you tell us from the things that Cella has been involved in?

David Iscove:
Well, one thing to note is Cella produces an annual report. Our in-house industry report, where we interview hundreds of marketing and creative ops professionals to get a objective understanding of the state of the industry. And we're looking at trends related to all of the facets that in-house agency would care about. In general, we are still in this crazy race of more is more. We're dealing with more channels than ever before. Historically social was considered a single channel within the marketing ops framework, but now we're dealing with multiple channels, even within social.

Daniel Jester:
Right.

David Iscove:
Whether that be TikTok, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Facebook, what have you. In addition to that, we're living in a hyper personal targeted approach to marketing in general. The days of producing one creative whether it be a radio ad and then airing that at 6:00 PM rush hour traffic hoping that as many ears as possible can hear it is long gone. So we're now in this world of hyper personalized, targeted creative, and the requirements to produce creative, to deliver against that are tremendous.

Daniel Jester:
David given everything that you just described about sort of the current state of marketing with all of these different channels. I think it's kind of hard to have this conversation around this immense need for content to unique content. All of those social channels, like you mentioned all have their own specific needs for those channels. It's hard to talk about this without talking about technology a little bit and sort of like what you do for Cella. So how can we, or how should we be thinking about our tech stack to support goals from a content production team standpoint to help support some of those goals that branch out from marketing?

David Iscove:
Historically, if we're just talking about creative operations in particular as a fulfillment service of marketing requests, the anchor platforms of creative ops historically have been project management and dam. And from a tech technology perspective, that's really the only primary system types that people have been focused on. So I come from the world of production, the world of the worker, where you receive a creative request and then you actually have to deliver against that. And unfortunately there's been this black hole that exists between those two bookmarks of project management and DAM.

Daniel Jester:
Right.

David Iscove:
That black hole was the domain of hard drives being passed around, or box links, Dropbox, what have you Google drive. And there was less attention on standing up tools for production teams, as much as there were from just the operational perspective. From an operational perspective, that was your focus. I'm going to manage the overall operations of all of the deliverables that I need to produce. And then yes, I'm producing deliverables. So I must need a DAM system in order to host it in repository, but there was no visibility in regards to where the request stood when it was in this black hole of the worker.

Daniel Jester:
Right. We described it on the show as like a black box with a slot at the top that you drop your request into. And then hopefully the right thing comes out the bottom, but nobody knows what's going on inside there.

David Iscove:
Exactly. And that's really problematic, especially when we're moving into an accelerated timeframe in terms of really producing content as quickly as possible with increased velocity and more content in general, we need continuous understanding of where a request stands at any given point.

Daniel Jester:
Right.

David Iscove:
So because I come from the world of production that black hole void, historically I've been aware of enterprise grade tools and solutions that are really beneficial to use by creatives, by the people that are producing the content. And so my focus since coming to Cella has been to connect project management to DAM through this connected enterprise grade solution ecosystem where production is connected and is visible at any given point within the asset life cycle. So, whether we do that through more formal integrations, via API or codeless connectors, or just at the very least recognizing that production has needs that require enterprise grade solutions, just as much as your operations team does. It's really important to focus on that too.

Daniel Jester:
And one of the things that you mentioned to me, and I certainly have learned this firsthand, and I think the vast majority of our listeners have learned this firsthand, the project management solutions out there rarely work well for creative production management. We do absolutely need something that fills that black hole. The benefits are twofold. Like you mentioned, visibility from the marketing team is very important. You mentioned process improvement earlier. And one of, sort of the core tenants of continuous improvement process improvement is those constant check-ins to make sure that you're still pointed in the right direction and with a black hole system where you're dropping a request in and hopefully the right thing comes out, you could have caught something probably earlier on with more visibility.

Daniel Jester:
On the other side I mean, we've all worked in a studio where assets are missing. The wrong thing gets shot. The wrong sample gets shot because it was mislabeled. There's a million things that some kind of a production management tool can help solve. One of the biggest ones being management of the assets through the process and making sure that the right things are getting shot at the right time. And the right information is being provided to the teams in context is a huge one.

David Iscove:
To your point, Daniel, there's this total misnomer like people say, "Well, I've got the need to, to manage a shoot. So can I use my project management system to do that?" The bottom line is that there is a cliff in regards to, I mean, it all boils down to the nuanced data objects that are associated with creative production versus general work management and project management. There's absolutely a relationship, a hierarchical relationship, but the amount of data objects that you're tracking within a work management solution versus the data objects that you need to track in a creative production environment is exponentially different. If we think about just photo ops, for example, our singular shoot data object that a project management tool is very good at tracking. So I've got the need for photography so I've got a shoot job that I'm going to create. Now when that gets to the photo studio, the photo studio interprets that singular shoot object as maybe that actually means that's represented with a thousand SKUs.

David Iscove:
And for each of those SKUs, we've got four or five X shot requirements per SKU, for example. So you just start to get exponential in regards to the object modeling, but there's absolutely a relationship between those objects in a hierarchical sense. And that's what we've been doing in regards to providing connectivity between project management and then creative production trackings, is define the relationship in terms of what we need to track in project management versus what we need to track in the studio. Obviously the project management system should be your source of record. From a marketing perspective that's where the marketed teams need to go to find the total, the understanding of all creative requests of which photo studio is just one. But I might have I mean especially if we're talking multi deliverable, integrated campaign, I'm submitting a request for photography and video and email, et cetera.

David Iscove:
And so I want one system of record that gives me an understanding of where my request stands from a campaign perspective. I'm not going to go into the individual tool that this studio team is using to track all of the variables that it needs to do. But what we need to do is aggregate and summarize all of the details of the studio into a report or some sort of communication that is delivered in the project management system so that the clients can then see, oh, we're here with photography, we're here with video, et cetera, et cetera.

Daniel Jester:
I love the sentiment there, which is that and one of the things I would love for our listeners to think about and have this perspective on, there's probably plenty of our listeners out there who have this perspective, but the idea that we really need to be thinking about our tools that we use, that our stakeholders need to interact with. We need to make sure that those lines of communication and those connections are strong. And one of the things that you said to me that really resonated was taking some of the weight of the technology out of the studio and putting it into that on sort of the foundational layer where it starts with marketing. Forgive me if you mentioned it a moment ago, but the Workfront being one of the big ones that a lot of people are out there using and wink to the audience, creative force has a direct integration with Workfront, just a little mid podcast sponsorship spot there-

David Iscove:
That I helped design and very proud of.

Daniel Jester:
But the idea there is that for some of these requests, the job is being created by whoever that stakeholder is. Right now, Creative Force focuses a lot on the econ product photography side, but that still can come from Workfront through our connector. And then with our editorial module, it'll be the same thing. It's just going to be a different process that allows those requests to come through the project manager and then all the way through to delivery, bridging that gap exactly what you're talking about. I want to talk a little bit about, let's skip ahead to, we've got this now. We've got a tool that we love. It's connected, requests are coming in one end and it's visible all the way through and the assets are being delivered and named.

Daniel Jester:
And we've got all the different variants that we need that are going into our DAM system. Let's talk about the exciting part, which is what this can allow us to unlock. We get our tech stack sorted out. We're very happy with it. Everything's working the way we want it. What are the exciting things that we can do? The automations and the processes that are well-functioning marketing and creative content relationship can give to us?

David Iscove:
You're going to start really functioning as a cohesive unit in terms of the organization. So instead of going from this siloed approach where even divisions within a company operate independently of each other, and you're only focused on your own benefit. You're going to start to feel like you're part of a really cohesive whole unit. And that actually, once you really align the granularity of the production process and then align that with the marketing processes too, you start to then see benefit in regards to your deliverables on a complete business level. And that's really what we should all be focused on at the time. What are the goals of the business that we're trying to achieve? At a very, very high level. And that's how we handle discovery in regards to understanding any sort of tech implementation that we do, or the process work or any sort of strategic recommendation that we make.

David Iscove:
Does it, first of all, establish your business goals. What is that? And then from there, what are our marketing goals that support those business goals? So we're going from macro to micro. So from a marketing perspective, are we focused on a particular stage of the customer journey, where we are most focused on addressing retention for example, or is it awareness? But the marketing goals themselves have to then support your business goals.

Daniel Jester:
Right.

David Iscove:
Once the marketing goals are set up and defined, we can then look at our creative operations strategy to know that anything that we do has to align with the marketing goals and the marketing goals then have to align with the business goals. And this is really important to get full cohesion in regards to the organization as a whole, because especially within creative production too, if you are tagging assets effectively whether that be through automation or just the overall approach to production that you're taking, you'll be able to quickly see, do we have enough assets to deliver against our customers within this phase of the customer life cycle? And is that really the goals of what marketing is asking us? Are we being asked to deliver against this customer need? All that being a very long way of answering that you're going to have full alignment, both from very high level business goals, through marketing support of those business goals, and then the creative operations support of the marketing requirements.

Daniel Jester:
It becomes then about, we're just not focused on that communication part of it, or getting up to speed or trying to understand the goals and how we can relate to them. It now allows us that's locked in, we now can respond to requests faster and we can turn around things quicker. And one of the things that Claire Carter again and I talked about is around social cause, especially when we're talking about editorial, social is going to be a significant chunk of the editorial work. It's going to end up on those channels. And there's a lot of them, they all have slightly different requirements and needs. And one of the things that kind of my conversation with Claire led me to sort of realize is that social teams live their entire marketing existence in basically real time. They have to be focused on what's going on out there and responding to it immediately.

Daniel Jester:
And if they don't have an asset or a way to find the asset quickly, which we talked about with Claire around metadata tagging and DAM organization and all that stuff, how important that is to make sure, if some celebrity shows up wearing your shirt and you get tagged in it, you better be able to find those assets within 30 minutes and get them up into some of your shorter life cycle, social channels.

David Iscove:
A hundred percent.

Daniel Jester:
But then being able to have the flexibility to say, one of the thing that Claire and I talked about is like 20% of your resources should be dedicated to just responding to things that you need suddenly, because we're moving so quickly now. And you really can't enable that level of agility without the communication lines being locked in and sort of solved and the process being clear and everybody being in locked step on it. It's kind of what we're talking about is that tech stack really is what'll allow us to enable that.

David Iscove:
Yeah. And it's important to look at your tech stack from the totality of the asset life cycle too. And when you talk about the asset life cycle, the asset life cycle begins way upstream from the point of creation of the asset. And it's really the strategy and planning that goes into the creative design has to absolutely be considered a contributing factor to the total asset life cycle. Is this misnomer that people think that the asset only begins the moment the photographer takes the photo-

Daniel Jester:
Right.

David Iscove:
... or the designer opens Photoshop?

Daniel Jester:
Yeah. That those bites exist.

David Iscove:
Absolutely. So all of this upstream planning is absolutely crucial to inform the overall integrity of the file and the asset. On the flip side, downstream analytics performance of the asset is also really important to track as well. So to your point in terms of being able to respond to a social need, we're seeing a lot of people from a creative ops perspective and marketing ops look at sentiment analysis where they're monitoring all of their social channels to see trends and be able to respond to that very, very quickly. But the analytics itself also has to be considered within your overall asset lifecycle because the analytics then goes back to informed strategy. And that's where we get into this loop of continuous improvement, where we've got strategy planning, that then goes into the request for content. We have production of the content. We have distribution of the content then publishing of that content, then performance measurement of that content through analysis and what have you. And then we're just back into strategy in this continuous improvement loop.

Daniel Jester:
Everything that we've talked about now has been echoed in a lot of different ways and different conversations on this podcast that the more that we can communicate and the more that we can automate some of that communication and provide information in context. And everybody understands the goals and they line up. Adam Parker has been on the podcast twice and talked about goals that go from the top level.

David Iscove:
Yeah.

Daniel Jester:
Pulled down in just goal setting in a way that all rolls up to the true organizational goals.

David Iscove:
And also one thing to mention too, is looking at the technology that you're using and the team that you're a part of is not being an island.

Daniel Jester:
Right.

David Iscove:
Whenever we focus on any sort of technology within an organization, you have to look at its relationship to the other tech systems that are being used by your coworkers that are contributing all to the same goal.

Daniel Jester:
Correct.

David Iscove:
So you look at the inputs and the outputs from your particular technology to deliver. What do you need in regards to do your job effectively? And then downstream, what do you need to deliver to enable other people to do their jobs effectively? And at its core, its visibility, communication, transparency, but then it's also data that is handed off between each of these groups that improve the overall value of each phase of the asset life cycle.

Daniel Jester:
This is a great segue into let's spend the last couple of minutes here, David talking a little bit about your upcoming speaking slot that you have at the Henry Stewart photo studio operations forum, 2021 that's coming up on October 5th. Listeners to this podcast by now will have already heard us plug this. Claire Carter again is conference chair for that segment and-

David Iscove:
Love Claire.

Daniel Jester:
Yeah. She's-

David Iscove:
Claire rocks.

Daniel Jester:
She's amazing. Big fan over here. And you're going to be talking specifically about bridging the gap between marketing and your photo studio. So people can hear quite a bit more from you on this exact topic that we just talked about. Do you want to tell us a little bit about what's going on with this event?

David Iscove:
I'm super excited. I mean, Henry Stewart legend in the digital asset management, the DAM community, and now the creative ops community. So I'm super psyched to be a part of this community. And it's really an awesome opportunity where pros can share what they're doing and we move the industry forward as a whole. It shouldn't be thought of as anything in terms of a proprietary workflow. Yes, there's proprietary data and proprietary content strategy, but the way that we produce content, especially being in the position that I am now consulting. So there is a linear arc that we all go through when we use content. It's the same, it's the same. And the more that we can share, how we do that effectively, the more we push the industry forward as a whole. So I'm super excited to talk about some of the strategies that I've developed.

David Iscove:
I think we'll give kind of a sneak peek in regards to specifically the Workfront to creative force connector, because that's really one example, a very tangible use case in regards to a marketing request and how a marketing request is delivered effectively to the photo studio from one system to the other system and how those two systems relate to deliver the needs that the photo studio has as from marketing and then to communicate the status of where the studio is in response to the marketing request. So it's going to be a great time and I'm a big believer in providing as much detail as possible. I really like to, we all have the same pain. We all go through the same process. So it's important for me, just not to talk about the pain, the because yeah, we all have it. We all know it, but let's talk about tangible solutions and strategy to deal with that pain and just get us to the holy land of process efficiency.

Daniel Jester:
Absolutely. Yeah. Let's get us all on the even playing field and just see whose content is best.

David Iscove:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Daniel Jester:
So for the listener, no less than six podcast guests on this track alone and the photo studio operations forum is co-located with the larger creative operations festival on October 5th. If you are interested in seeing the agenda, seeing the speaker lineup and registering for the event, I took the liberty of creating a tiny URL that I can tell you now. It's tinyurl.com/photoops2021. That's all lowercase, all one word. And that should take you right to the Henry Stewart page where you can register. David, thank you so much for your time and your expertise. And I'm very much looking forward to hearing you speak at a photo studio operations forum on October 5th.

David Iscove:
My pleasure dude, this has been super awesome. Very interesting. And thanks for inviting me to participate and hope we get to do it again.

Daniel Jester:
Oh yeah. You're going to be back. You're going to be back for sure. Yeah. It's going to be you. I'm going to get you and Claire on one episode and I'm not even going to get a word in edgewise.

David Iscove:
Can't wait, man.

Daniel Jester:
All right. Thanks David.

David Iscove:
Thank you so much.

Daniel Jester:
That's it for this episode of the E-Commerce Content Creation Podcast. I encourage you all to check out photo ops forum 2021 on October 5th. You can see the agenda in the speaker lineup and also register for the event by visiting tinyurl.com/photoops2021. Tinyurl.com/photoops2021, all lowercase, all one word photo ops 2021. That will get you right there. Many thanks to our guest David Iscove for the episode and to you for listening. The show is produced by Creative Force edited by Calvin Lands. Special thanks to Sean O'Meara and Cella. I'm your host Daniel Jester. Until next time my friends.

About the host

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Daniel Jester is an experienced creative production professional who has managed production teams, built and launched new studios, and produced large-scale projects. He's currently the Chief Evangelist at Creative Force but has a breadth of experience in a variety of studio environments - working in-house at brands like Amazon, Nordstrom, and Farfetch as well as commercial studios like CONVYR. Creative-minded, while able to effectively plan for and manage a complex project, he bridges the gap between spreadsheets and creative talent.