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By Mark Egmon
Tackling the seemingly insurmountable challenge of global rights management through a ‘tech first’ approach will inevitably fail. It must start by creating a process and that begins with involving the right people.
Top Down Leadership
It is key to get the CMO or Head of Marketing on board to give the directive that rights management is a priority. Subsequently, the CMO’s appointment of the person to helm this effort should be someone with operational acumen and a full view of the internal organization as well as the creative supply chain that supports it.
“The first rule of technology used in any business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second rule is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency” – Bill Gates
The elephant in the room for most corporate advertisers is that their management of usage rights for talent & licensed elements is highly inefficient or worse, non-existent. The woes of repeated infringements and costly violations have now made that elephant impossible to ignore.
Tackling the seemingly insurmountable challenge of global rights management can be done. But those who succeed need to take measured steps and a holistic approach to address it. As the adage goes, the first step to fixing a problem is admitting that you have one. To their credit, many companies have taken this first step.
Where many stumble is that in their desire to expediently solve this growing problem, they are inclined to throw technology at it. While there are many rights management tech options to choose from, regardless of the robustness of the rights management platform or Digital Asset Management system, this “tech first” approach typically reveals the company’s inadequate, or complete lack, of a process for managing usage rights.
Process is not just something that happens nor is there a one-process-fits-all solution. It is something that must be developed based on the unique needs of each marketing organization and its creative supply chain. Developing that process begins with people.
Despite the growth of AI and the excitement around its potential in business applications, including the rights management space, it too is a technology tool that will require the structure of process, created by people, to be effective.
So, who are the right people to bring to the table? For a sustainable and effective rights management solution, the initiative must be led from the top. It is key to get the CMO or Head of Marketing on board to give the directive that rights management is a priority. Subsequently, the CMO’s appointment of the person to helm this effort should be someone with operational acumen and a full view of the internal organization as well as the creative supply chain that supports it.
For global corporations, this may be a Vice President or Director of Marketing Operations. For medium-sized companies, it may be a Vice President of Marketing. The smaller the company, especially those that lack a CMO, the likelier that the champion of the concept may also be the one that helms the initiative. Regardless of company size or marketing organization structure, creating a sustainable rights management process starts with marketing leadership.
What does it mean to create a sustainable process? For continued success, effective management of usage rights must be embedded in the company’s best practices. While it may start under a particular marketing leader, it must be embraced and followed long past that leader’s tenure with the company or any other personnel transitions. This will help the process continue during the inevitable, and often frequent, changes in the creative supply chain.
The best way to achieve sustainability is to establish a cross-functional internal team that includes Media, Legal, IT and Procurement. This group, along with Marketing Operations, will impact how effective the contributions are from the external team members in the creative supply chain. The external members include creative agencies, media agencies, payroll & business affairs providers and ad delivery partners (along with production consultants if the company has engaged one).
The first step in designing the process is determining which assets will be tracked. The ‘go-to’ assets most think of are broadcast & internet commercials. But there are so many more to consider. The following list of asset types and how they appear illustrates just how extensive this can be:
Within the assets, what elements should be tracked? There is the human element (performer’s likeness and/or performance) as well as other elements that require permission to use, including, but not limited to:
The more data collected with each permissible element, the better. For example, licensing a popular song by a known artist not only requires the synchronization rights from the composer and lyricist, but permission from the artist and the master rights from whatever entity owns that version. With music, getting the correct version is important since the song might be recorded several times by the same artist, but with different bands or orchestras accompanying them.
For instance, Taylor Swift has re-recorded her first six albums to retain the rights to the new masters as the result of a fallout with Big Machine Records, which owns the masters to those previous album recordings. So, which version of “Shake it off” is licensed depends on from whom you obtain permission from for the master rights.
Work internally with your IT department and whomever is charged with managing your DAM system to establish a process for recording the data, including a consistent brand hierarchy and terminology. One option is to structure by Advertiser, then Brand, then Sub-Brand. But even that seemingly simple approach requires additional consideration.
To use L’Oréal for example, would L’Oréal be considered the “Advertiser” for all L’Oréal brands? Perhaps the company would like to track usage and costs by listing each business unit as the “Advertiser” in the system. If that were the case, “L’Oréal Consumer Products” might be listed as one “Advertiser” with “Garnier” as the Brand and “Garnier Fructis” as the Sub-Brand.
The “L’Oréal Dermatological Beauty” business unit would be another “Advertiser” with “CeraVe” as the Brand, and so on. Such detail will allow specific talent and elements to be directly linked to brands under each business unit and tracked with more specifics, thus producing more significant reporting.
Whatever approach is ultimately decided by a company, getting their creative agencies on board with data collection is crucial. The agencies are responsible for engaging talent and licensing elements. If they are not aligned with how that information is entered, the attempt at consistent tracking and reporting will fail.
Once the process is in place for what will be tracked and how it will be recorded, it is time to introduce technology that will enable the internal and external teams and the process they co-created to succeed.
When considering a platform, it must be the central source of truth for all talent & rights data and be accessible to all creative partners without making their task of entering data a burden. In the U.S., Canada and several other countries, Advertising Business Affairs departments are on the front lines engaging talent and licensing elements.
In other markets, that responsibility may fall to producers. Regardless of who is responsible, the system should fit organically into their workflow. In the U.S., this may be part of a larger talent management system where estimates for union talent, residual payment authorizations and other talent-related tasks are handled.
Mapping from that platform to your company’s DAM system should be easily done with data transferred through an API. The platform should also be integrated with your ad delivery partner’s platform. Since those who traffic assets don’t check in daily with those who engaged the talent and licensed the element, this integration will ideally provide a layer of safety by sending an alert if some component within an asset has expired or is about to be used in a territory or medium that was not negotiated as part of the permission of use.
When it comes to managing talent & licensed element rights, the devil is in the details and is far more complex than can be elaborated upon in this article. But by bringing together the right People to create a thorough Process and then enabling its success by applying robust Technology, it may take a while, but eventually the elephant will no longer be in the room.
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