We need more content! Acceleration in the demand for and volume of content today is well known and, at times, painfully felt, by all enterprise creative and marketing operations professionals. It’s easy to pinpoint the rise of this content velocity on marketing (hyper-) personalization which has become the of-the-moment primary strategic approach to doing business across many industries.
According to Adobe, the expected demand for content to fuel marketing campaigns driving personalization will grow by 5x over the coming years.
It’s not enough to have access to brand-loyal creative and marketing professionals who are willing to rise to the challenges (and pain) associated with delivering against this tsunami of content. A combination of established work processes and purpose-driven technologies optimized for the needs of the content pipeline are essential as well.
The typical phases of content operations are common across any industry type and can be categorized as:
If you’re focused on standing up, optimizing, or delivering services related to enterprise creative or marketing operations, like Cella is, you must understand the goals and specific needs of each of these phases and how they work together in concert to play individual roles contributing to Marketing’s overall success.
The combination of these operational phases is what Adobe refers to as the Content Supply Chain, and at Adobe Summit 2023, the company announced a solution package which provides an integrated response to address the total combined needs of marketing and creative operations. This solution natively integrates Workfront, Creative Cloud, Experience Manager and Customer Journey Analytics to address all phases of the Content Supply Chain while also introducing new uses of generative AI (Adobe Firefly) and machine learning (Adobe Sensei) to further accelerate and optimize the content lifecycle so that clients can produce better and more personalized content for their customers.
Let’s run through an overview of Adobe’s comprehensive solution set to address the Content Supply Chain.
Planning starts off in Workfront, Adobe’s work management solution, through which campaign strategy can be reconciled against prioritization and resourcing. Adobe announced major upgrades to the calendaring features of Workfront to deliver more of a unified marketing calendar look and feel with greater visualization capabilities so that campaign managers can see exactly what’s happening and when. The expanded functionality of Workfront Boards now allows users to manage agile workflows with any number of custom swim lanes and visible data points for greater work management. The ability to visualize linked programs, marketing categories, personas and even approved assets fed from Adobe Experience Manager Assets against a list of active campaigns looks to provide greater awareness of total marketing activity in real time.
In terms of Production, Adobe announced deeper, native integrations of Creative Cloud applications with Workfront so creatives can remain in their applications of choice (including Premiere Pro with Frame.io) and directly see all tasks and due dates assigned to them, provide updates to collaborators, deliver proofs for review, even log time – all without having to open Workfront separately. This promises huge time savings and will go a long way to incentivize adoption among creatives.
Expanding production capabilities further, Adobe announced the release of Adobe Express for Enterprise. This lightweight creative application is intended to democratize and scale content creation to a wider marketing community. Unlike some of the creative cloud applications which require expert knowledge, Express is intended to allow anyone to be able to modify content within brand guidelines which can be enforced through pre-designed templates.
Express integrates natively with Adobe Experience Manager Assets (Adobe’s DAM) so that, with permission, users can access content in a self-serve manner for additional downstream needs. This enables the benefits which can be realized in consolidating Work-In-Progress assets within a DAM system while also leveraging DAM-native features, such as Adobe Firefly – Adobe’s generative AI platform which creates content through simple text prompts impressive enough for most consumer applications.
We saw a demo in which an end user accessed a product image using Adobe Express from within AEM Assets, then using Firefly, rendered the product against multiple realistic environments. The implications of how product photography might be used within an editorial context as a result of this are very exciting.
Once an asset has been created with approved brand standards, variations must be created for all channels. In the past this has been a task loathed by creatives as it involves labor-intensive steps of resizing content manually and individually per channel requirements. Adobe demonstrated how it has now integrated Photoshop’s API natively in AEM to automatically resize source files. This automation can actually be triggered by a status update to a task in Workfront, so that once an asset is approved and a review task marked “complete”, the sizing can be generated automatically in a matter of seconds. Pretty cool stuff.
Adobe’s solution to Content Management Systems (CMS) is Adobe Experience Manager Sites. In parallel to other platform trends within the space, AEM Sites is focused on its headless composability for maximum flexibility (“headless” refers to decoupling the front-end presentation of an application from its back-end database architecture to create individual pieces of functionality which can be independently managed and deployed more easily).
As a result of its headless nature, AEM Sites has been integrated with other composable content services so that content across any channel (including websites and mobile apps) can be managed directly within collaborative documents such as Microsoft Word running on Sharepoint or Google Docs. This approach to democratizing content delivery, similarly to how Express democratized content creation, appears to be a recurring trend in Adobe’s roadmap – evolve the depth of creative applications that creative SMEs have loved to learn from deep experience, but make other areas of the Content Supply Chain accessible to a broader, non-creative marketing audience.
On top of expanding composition collaboration, Adobe has also included its Sensei AI natively in Sites to provide recommendations on marketing communication and overall strategy. For example, if a marketer is looking to driver higher engagement with a particular audience segment, Sensei AI will respond with recommendations related to updating language, imagery, content ideas, keywords to include, tailored product descriptions, etc. which it knows will resonate with that particular audience. Parameters can be set to receive recommendations which align with a particular tone of voice (e.g., “neutral”, “engaging”, “confident”, etc.) while also enforcing “brand-aware” tonality learned through machine learning tied back to your brand’s unique identity. There is always an option to approve or modify these recommendations, so the Marketer is always in control. In this way, Adobe envisions AI as a co-pilot enabling human capabilities, never as a replacement.
In the final phase of the Content Supply Chain, Adobe is now leveraging AI with Adobe Sensei to analyze content performance at a creative attribute and audience segment level by connecting Workfront and AEM with its Customer Journey platforms (Optimizer and Analytics).
Whether served through your website via AEM Sites (CMS) or delivered in multiple channels, including email via Journey Optimizer, because the customer-facing content is linked to the source file stored in AEM Assets (DAM), all metadata originally associated with the asset in the DAM can be tracked against performance analytics. This means you can now measure how certain aspects such as color, composition, even writing styles, impact performance of the content with different audiences.
These insights are intended to inform future creative strategy so that teams can leverage content sources such as Adobe Stock or use Firefly AI to generate similarly performing content. The ultimate goal is to deliver these insights back into Workfront to inform creative strategy moving forward on future campaign planning, but that integration was not demoed - a solution I personally have been hoping to see for some time. There are still questions as to the value of delivering performance insights back into Workfront, whether that is the appropriate source to capture these metrics or if a global dashboard visualizing a combination of operational and performance metrics pooled from multiple data sources might be the better solution. That is yet to be seen, but there is no doubt that Adobe’s strategy is bringing us much, much closer to the ideal operational model.
One More Look Back: Reflecting on the 2023 Adobe Summit
During the Adobe Summit 2023 event, we were given a glimpse of how Adobe intends to address operational needs of both the current and future state of the Content Supply Chain. It’s defined by:
The adoption of a single source of truth for content planning, which streamlines the process and ensures consistency (Workfront)
Advancements in the production of content creation, with creatives being assisted by AI to enhance their output (Creative Cloud, including Express)
Authoring and delivery made more accessible with expanded reach (AEM)
Content analytics to gain insights on the content's performance against its target audience to inform future creative strategy (CJA)
On a personal note, my biggest takeaway from the product announcements made by Adobe at Summit 2023 is the validation of Cella’s own work in delivering technology solutions to our clients. The four-pillared focus of Adobe’s Content Supply Chain represents the same governing strategy which has driven Cella’s consultative approach for years in addressing the needs of our creative and marketing operations clients. It's exciting to see what was once a piecemeal landscape of solutions now become architected as a standard. A new baseline will emerge and experts like Cella will be able to push operational strategy even farther forward as a result.
Nobody knows and understands the needs of the Content Supply Chain as deeply as Cella does. If you need help navigating Adobe’s solution or another vendor’s, we’d be happy to be your co-pilots.