Putting some 3D sizzle into a company’s brand was once a significant expense. Not anymore.
Today, robust and affordable creative software applications are helping businesses of all sizes make a marketing splash.
Take Williams Labadie, which recently relaunched its brand to highlight new capabilities and services. “We used print media to drive traffic to an interactive website that included 3D components,” says Jason Dittmer, director of information services for the Chicago-based healthcare advertising and communications company. “All of the pieces, print and interactive, were created using various applications within Adobe Creative Suite.”
Although it’s a marketing agency, Williams Labadie faces the same challenges any business confronts when promoting its offerings. “There are so many channels now — print pieces of various types, e-mail campaigns, CD-ROMs, PowerPoint presentations, e-books, web banner ads and our own website,” Dittmer explains. “To be profitable, we must be efficient and effective across all of them.”
Williams Labadie adopted Creative Suite several years ago to take advantage of the compatibility the product family offers across key design applications: photo editing, graphic design and page layout. “Before, we had solutions from different vendors, which caused a variety of bottlenecks and inefficiencies,” Dittmer says.
The 46-employee agency is upgrading to Adobe CS5  for its improved application interactivity and cutting-edge features. According to Dittmer, “the integration of features among the suite’s tools gets better with every iteration. Having interoperability and the ability to easily exchange documents between applications is fantastic.”
Enhancements to creativity and productivity functions also are very important. “We love the multiple-artboards feature in Illustrator and InDesign, for example,” says Zoretta Williams, studio manager for Williams Labadie. “Creating collateral of different sizes within the same file” is a real time saver, she adds.
Williams Labadie has reduced the number of separate design files it maintains by
25% to 30% using Adobe CS5’s multiple-artboards feature.
“From a creative perspective, the impact of your designs is much faster and easier to visualize when those designs are all together on screen, versus the traditional route of printing out separate mock-ups,” Williams explains. “From a workflow perspective, you’re more productive, because there are fewer files to manage.”
Consistency and accuracy also are improved. “Making a design or text change across multiple pieces no longer requires locating and opening numerous files,” she continues. “This improves branding uniformity and reduces costly errors that can occur if a file is overlooked.”
Another benefit is the ability to convert Illustrator or Photoshop designs to Flash applications without writing code. “With CS5 we’ll be exploiting more types of online opportunities more often,” Dittmer says. “For example, we commonly create short video clips showcasing our work to include in client presentations. Now we can create and push them out to the web as a Flash video within a couple of hours.”
Industry observers say sophisticated design tools such as CS5 are actually critical to maximizing marketing dollars.
“So much effort goes into creating exciting and engaging marketing experiences,” says Melissa Webster, program vice president for content and digital media technologies at IDC. “It’s important to leverage the creative investments you put into branding, packaging and other collateral across all marketing channels. Repurposing creative investments should be easy, so you can get your message out quickly and consistently.”
Not surprisingly, Creative Suite is a top content-repurposing tool among creative professionals. “We’ve seen Adobe put tremendous effort into integrating Creative Suite’s applications,” Webster says. “Not only is workflow consistent across the applications, but so is the management of metadata, which is crucial for maintaining all the valuable information about individual creative assets.”
For our review on CS5, go to biztech magazine.com /0710cs5 
As director of marketing for HighTower, a software developer and services provider with 50 employees in Skokie, Ill., Dan Norris is quite familiar with Creative Suite’s asset-repurposing prowess. “Using CS is much more efficient than using the separate vendor solutions we had previously,” he says. “We’re completing significantly more projects than before. And we’re jumping into more sophisticated types of projects than we had the capabilities to pursue in the past.”
Although Norris says Adobe’s design applications are “where I live,” he also favors Apple’s Final Cut  solution, which allows him to add full-motion video to marketing and sales materials. “Final Cut permits us to reuse content from a single HD video shoot in multiple ways,” Norris says. “I can create autoplay CDs, generate DVDs with menu systems or develop YouTube-style videos to promote our products and services.”
To wring even more benefit from design software, power users suggest mining underlying productivity features. “Bridge provides a unified interface that allows you to view, organize and work on projects regardless of where the files and components reside on your hard drive,” Norris says.
Users also agree that training is essential for improving return on investment. “Definitely take the time to learn about the tools and the interface,” says Cricket Hannan, a senior associate for Boston-based Collective Next, which depends upon Creative Suite to market its management consulting services.
“Enroll in an online tutorial or sit with someone who has used the software,” suggests Hannan, who serves as her firm’s marketing lead. “You’ll fall in love with CS, once you know how to use it.”
“Take Photoshop, which has been around for decades,” says Williams Labadie’s Dittmer. “Without training, you may not discover its new 3D functionality because you’d just keep using the application the same way as before.”
Without question, he continues, the software and education investments are worthwhile. In the marketing business, for example, “it’s very evident that the transition from print to interactive media is continuing rapidly,” Dittmer says. “For us, Adobe has all the pieces we need. They just really get it.”