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Having built the lexicon, Clear Channel needed a way of adding the data to the images to make them smart, with as little drudgery as possible, so they built a software application, called POP Prep. It’s simple enough for anyone in a typical office to use. Employing a series of preset pop-up screens, the user can go into the lexicon, highlight the correct keywords, and attach those keywords to that image in the database to make them searchable. In large-market offices, assistants process the images; in smaller markets, the person who does the photography, often a sales or marketing rep, does the processing. The images are tagged immediately after capture, at the very beginning of the data chain, using the corporate-wide file-naming system, which includes structure number, advertiser, location, display format, product or service category, approach shot or close-up, and date. They are then uploaded to the local server to be immediately accessed by the various systems. More smart data is added as the image develops a history in the system.
IMPLEMENTING IN THE FIELD
A field implementation plan should address both equipment and training issues.
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Mason was responsible for equipping and training everyone who was out in the field capturing images. He told us, “I do all the research, set the company standards, and purchase all the digital cameras and related accessories from a local supplier I’ve been using for many years. I make the decisions based on matching the needs in the field to the capabilities of cameras and related accessories.” Mason purchased more than 200 high-end consumer digital cameras for photographing structures and locations in the United States. These were 3.4- to 5-megapixel models with extended zoom capabilities to capture images of structures at great distances. The 60 information technology regionals each received midlevel 2- to 3-megapixel point-and-shoot consumer cameras. All the IT people in the field have cameras that they use to report Clear Channel site conditions from all over the United States.
Clear Channel implemented a training program to help its photographers learn the digital work flow. “I trained over 200 photographers and 60 IT people over about a six- to seven-month period,” Mason said. “This involved a half dozen one-day training sessions in different parts of the nation. Attendees ran the whole gamut, from photographers that we have on staff to the marketing, creative, and office people that end up doing the shooting. Some people had basic point-and-shoot skills and that’s it. We did a morning hands-on training session on the cameras, and then in the afternoon we did a training session on the POP Prep system. Then they had to take the cameras out in the field and learn how to use them for our specific purposes. Once we placed the digital cameras out in the field, it took just a couple of months to get everyone in all the U.S. markets up to speed. One of the important things that we discovered during the training
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process was that the digital cameras produce a time stamp embedded in the image file that records exactly when the image was shot. When we compared the time stamp to the shooting logs, we found that some of the photographers weren’t working as efficiently as they could. That time stamp helped us analyze and improve some of the work-flow issues out in the field and has also become a key part of the information we pass on to the clients as part of the POP document.” This automatic time stamp is the precursor to other technologies, which we cover in Chapter 8, aimed at automating and accelerating the smart image process. These smart, text-tagged images are immediately uploaded into the system, making them accessible to the Community of Interest the same day they are captured.
STEP 4. TRACK AND EVALUATE
Imaging at Clear Channel measures up to a criterion suggested by former Apple Computer CEO John Sculley in regard to measuring when a new technology was taking hold: “When a new technology becomes an everyday part of people’s work flows, when its use is constant rather than occasional, then it’s important from a business point of view.”
Russ Mason agreed, “We use images constantly, every day, because of the speed and accuracy with which our infrastructure allows us to find and send images to people anytime, anywhere. For example, just today an account rep in Cleveland e-mailed us and said, ‘I need a picture of location such-and-such and I need it right now. The client’s coming through the door!’ We found it and zapped it to him in less than two minutes. We see e-mails all the time from people working together around the world. By sending a global e-mail, I can contact all 80 creative people and all 50 marketing managers in the United States. Plus, it goes to people from the mall
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and AdShel divisions, airports, the taxis division, Times Square Spectacolor in New York, and to an international list. The distribution and use of images just constantly goes on.”