Customer Spotlight: Phoebe Owens


Phoebe is a favorite at Wiredrive, and we were able to grab a few minutes with her to better understand her role at Wieden+Kennedy and how everyone in the creative industry can benefit from an organized metadata video nerd.

Tells us about your role at Wieden+Kennedy.

I’m responsible for storing and organizing the agency’s finished creative work, as well as the corporate memory and context of our work, and making sure our teams have access to it.

What does your typical day look like?

I hunt down work and provide context behind it, such as who worked on it, what did it mean, what was the significance of it for the agency, how it is being used now, who needs to connect with it, and who is going to look for it.

How do you keep all of that work organized?

I’m constantly deciding what to keep in the collection versus what to remove from the collection to make it easier for our users to find what they need. For example, we’re not going to include a ton of versions of a broadcast spot. When you search for a specific piece of work, you get the one you need—the final version.

It’s a librarian’s job to cull the collection and use the metadata to point people in the right direction.

How do you cull a collection?

Well, that is where the context piece comes in! Understanding our work well enough to know what versions are the best, or are the favorites, or are the ones that aired, takes a little extra research and a little extra time with the people involved in our creative processes.

From the technical perspective, we created a file-naming convention when we first started and that lent itself to an easy search process even though we don’t have the staff to dedicate to cataloging. Wiredrive has a pretty open platform so that we can manipulate the tool to do exactly what we need. We can create as many metadata fields as we need, which is important.

The biggest product strength for us is how easy it is to build reels and send links so that everyone can benefit from the library. It’s also a great research tool for us.

Phoebe Owens WK

Phoebe at the W+K headquarters in Portland, Seattle.

What’s an example of a problem you solved today?

I got an email from someone who worked on a very famous global soccer spot in 1994. He wanted a particular reel of a 45-second spot that only ran in Berlin and he thought maybe New York. Since I have an uncanny ability to remember our work as well as a system organized with metadata, I can say, “Actually those were 40-second spots, not 45 seconds! Here’s the work and, also, here’s a great behind-the-scenes interview with Joe Pytka where he’s talking about the campaign with you.” I added it to his reel—already branded with the Wieden+Kennedy logo so it looks sleek and professional—and sent it to him. It’s great because it is so clear and easy.

What about your background makes you a good fit for an advertising agency and why library school?

I have a background in video and film production. I went to film school when I was young and worked in that industry for about a decade before I went to library school. I burned out while making a feature film, and I just wanted the opposite of film. I wanted somewhere quiet and wonderful and academic instead of ridiculous and loud and absurd.

I have a lot of passion in both areas. That makes me a great fit for the agency because I would talk very easily about film and formats—more so than most librarians.

What’s the difference between an archivist and a librarian?

People use those words interchangeably, but they are very different in their purpose.

In a nutshell, and there is a lot of overlap here, an archivist preserves and protects artifacts and information. A librarian provides better ways for people to access and share materials and information. An archivist is also concerned with how to share the information with people, but they also have the directive to protect an original, usually fragile, artifact. A librarian usually has a collection of copies meant to be shared, used, and even replaced. In the digital media world, this gets tricky. It is not uncommon for librarians working with special collections and corporate environments to have more fluid roles. And this is why I am a little bit of each, plus a bit of a knowledge manager, plus a bit of a historian for W+K.

Does an agency need a librarian?

If they want to find their work and the context for that work, then they need a person who knows the agency’s work like the back of their hand, as well as the story behind it. They need someone who can be responsible for the memory of all of their creative content. Librarians are typically hard-wired for this, and can often be useful in hundreds more ways, from helping with HR/training needs and event planning to absolutely every type of research imaginable.

What if an agency can’t afford a full-time librarian?

Smaller companies that don’t make hundreds of spots per month may not need a librarian per se. However, they need someone who connects with the work and has an interest and passion for organizing. You could hire temps or freelancers to catalog for you, but that leaves out the heart and soul that binds the collection together, and you are left with no contextual piece. A librarian needs to have a love for the work the company does. You can’t just be a librarian or simply like video; you have to be a nerd for it.

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