Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (aka the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Inc.) is a non-profit organization with one objective: to increase the sale and consumption of Wisconsin dairy products. (If you watched the 2021 Super Bowl, you might have seen their commercial, between Doritos spots and cutaways to Gisele Bündchen.)
A very small group of creative communications professionals plan and produce the marketing campaigns and promotional programs, and it’s all funded entirely by Wisconsin dairy farm families, literally. So everyone involved keeps a close eye on costs.
“Yeah, we’re very cost-conscious,” said Ellie Thomas, Managing Creative Director of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW). “We're a nonprofit, using dairy farmers’ hard-earned money to market their products. So everything we do needs to be super-efficient with that investment.”
“We heard Ellie and Mary describe their challenges…
and we said, ‘hey, we can help.’”
But, despite low-fat budgets (sorry, couldn’t resist), the team at DFW manages a LOT of media. Product photography, video, even recipes. “Our job is to promote the consumption of dairy products,” said Ellie, and they’ll share assets with anybody who wants to use them to drive that outcome: industry and retail partners, and dozens of other content-producing agencies.
In the early years, that meant lots of manual copying and shipping of discs and tapes and drives, and eventually the adoption of a Canto media asset management system to keep track of it all. But an upgrade to that system left the DFW team in a quandary. Mary Litviak, the DFW Digital Librarian, now had a system with more firepower and lots of potential, but she was critically understaffed. The upgrade to the DFW system was a job in and of itself, and Mary was already working full tilt to manage the existing asset management pipeline.
“We’re mostly designers and creative directors,” said Ellie. “We needed somebody to help us communicate with our DAM vendor,” said Ellie, “and then help us build a structure around the planning and the launch of the new system because it's completely unique.”
Around that time, Ellie and Mary met Aldis.
“We were at an industry conference,” said Phil Seibel, Digital Asset Manager at Aldis. “We heard Ellie and Mary describe their challenges… and we said, ‘hey, we can help.’”
Ellie was surprised to find someone willing to work with an existing system – emphasis on the word work. “I knew there were consultants out there, but I didn’t think we’d find someone who would basically act like he was part of our team – not just say smart things and leave it to us to figure it out.”
“We help bridge the gap between the way people think and talk about what their job is and the way the technology wants to ‘hear’ what they're looking for,” said Phil. “And that includes talking to the people who make the technology. We translate.”
Ellie agrees. “We’ll be in meetings and I’m like, what we need is blah blah blah blah blah,” she said, laughing. “And Phil nods and turns to our MAM vendor and says, ‘I think Ellie is saying she wants X, Y, Z,’ and I say, ‘yes, that, exactly.’ And the vendor gets it because Phil can speak that language.”
“He’s really invested in our success, and that’s apparent.”
“You're not thinking about how an SQL query needs to be typed out. That’s our job – we ask the right questions and open the right doors for the people who are trying to get their work done.”
The team at Aldis loves to play the middle-man, and they’re proudly system-agnostic. “There are a lot of really great programmers out there who create really great systems. And there are a lot of wonderful, creative minds who are very, very good at their jobs. It's difficult to get those two groups to communicate well,” said Phil. “Seeing the lights go on between the two teams at the ‘crosswalk’ is the part I enjoy.”
For DFW, that meant not only helping maximize the upgraded platform, it meant developing a sustainable, searchable system with a keyword architecture the whole DFW organization can use – not just the creative content team.
“Yeah, gradually, everyone is learning that they can use the system, now,” said Ellie. “Everyone says, ‘hey, this is cool.’”
In the end, Phil and the team at Aldis not only helped DFW run a smoother operation – they helped save money. “We manage a lot of activity, and we have to make sure that we're not duplicating – you know, doing a photoshoot of a cheese that we just shot six months ago,” said Ellie.
“By spending upfront on a digital asset management platform, and then making it really high-functioning with help from Aldis, we're actually getting more out of the individual assets that we're investing in. This helps us stay completely on top of everything we have going on and make sure every move we make helps sell Wisconsin Dairy products.”