Will technology replace marketers? With Julien Decot, Snr Director, Marketing Partnerships EMEA at Facebook

Emerging MarTech leaves some B2B marketers wary of job loss or replacement. However, this fear could be considered unwarranted, as this FINITE Podcast discusses the opportunities that technology gives to marketers in terms of enablement and creativity. 

On this episode of the FINITE Podcast, Julien Decot gives his optimistic perspective on the relationship between marketing and technology. Julien is entrenched in the MarTech world as Senior Director of Marketing Partnerships EMEA at Facebook

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Full Transcript

Alex (00:09):

Hello and welcome back to the FINITE Podcast. On the podcast today, we’re joined by Julien Decot, who is Senior Director of Marketing Partnerships in EMEA at Facebook, which is I’m sure a company you have heard of before. Julien’s got an enterprise technology background in strategy and marketing at companies like Text Me and Skype and eBay. 

And today we’re talking about the relationship between technology and marketing, how technology can democratise marketing, enable storytelling and find the right audiences for creative campaigns. I hope you’re looking forward to this episode as much as I am, enjoy.


FINITE (00:43):

The FINITE community is kindly supported by The Marketing Practice, a global integrated B2B marketing agency that brings together all the skills you need to design and run account-based marketing, demand generation channels and customer marketing programs. Head to themarketingpractice.com to learn more.


Alex (01:04):

Hi Julien, welcome to the FINITE Podcast. Thanks for joining me.


Julien (01:07):

My pleasure. Thanks for having me over.


Alex (01:09):

I’m looking forward to talking. We’re going to be diving into the world of technology and marketing and I guess where they intertwine and then they do so evermore these days. But before we do that, I’ll let you, as we always do, tell us a bit about yourself, your background, experience and your current role.


About Julien’s background in tech and marketing 

Julien (01:25):

Sure. So I’m born and raised in France in a small town, spent the bulk of my professional life outside of France, mostly in between the US and the UK where I’ve lived for the last 10 years. My background is sort of in technology at large, worked for Amazon in the early days of Amazon, worked for Skype in the early days of Skype, had my own startup for about four years in the messaging space and then joined Facebook about five years ago. 

So mostly tech on the business side of things. And my current job, I basically managed the ecosystem of companies that help Facebook solve problems for its clients. So it’s a very large ecosystem of companies, about 2000 of them around the world, that sits in between our native tools and a platform that everyone uses when they buy ads on Facebook and our clients on the other side. So that’s the ecosystem that I look after with my team all around the region.


Alex (02:26):

Cool. And I’m always interested in marketers? I guess you’re not a pure marketer, but everyone’s education, how you ended up doing what you’re doing. What did you study? What drew you into technology?


Julien (02:39):

It’s pretty random, to be honest with you. I am a finance major at uni, so could have done investment banking and I was just a numbers guy. I just happened to be 46 and I sort of came out of uni in 97 when the internet sort of came out. And pretty quickly this was very interesting to me for a whole set of reasons. 

I was into books and suddenly Amazon came out and suddenly you had a store where you could buy a million books and search was getting started with Alta Vista and Yahoo. And I had an open mind and that sort of drew me into that space at Amazon and then I lingered from one interest to the other. 

That took me to Skype, which was a really interesting piece of tech that was having a profound impact on people, to building my own messaging company, to joining Facebook. I think the common theme, which I realised later was I’m really interested in the connection between technology and people. 

I think I’m not a technologist. So I don’t get a kick out of building an API. That’s why I didn’t study engineering, but I really get a kick out of understanding the impact that technology can have in the real world. That’s really fascinating to me. And it’s getting more and more interesting. That’s probably why I work at Facebook because I think this is the place where you see this both in the good and the bad. 

Probably the greatest extent and the most interesting place to work given sort of my profile and my interest. How did I end up doing marketing? Hard to say. I stumbled into ads when I was building my startup. Probably at Skype because we want to diversify the Skype business. Then I’d be in my own startup and I realised it was going to be ad funded. So I learned a lot about MarTech at the time as I was building it. 

And then when I got into Facebook originally, I was working on non-marketing stuff. I was working on developer programs and then the sales team needed to see a partnership person. So it was just like random, one step up to the other, which took me here. That’s not necessarily super helpful for a new grad who is wondering what to do. 

I would say if you’re in interesting places and you’re curious, and you’re willing to do things you haven’t done before, you might have a similar journey, which is you end up in some place really interesting, mostly by virtue of fully your own interest and passion.


What is the relationship between technology and marketing now? 

Alex (05:07):

Cool. And I think that leads us nicely into the subject. We’re going to be talking about. I mean, you’ve just said that I think is accurate that Facebook’s probably at the forefront of this intersection of technology and marketing and people, which is where your interest lies. I guess to start and to set the scene, how do you see the relationship between technology and marketing at a top level now?


Julien (05:30):

Yeah, I think it’s very interesting. Cause for example, my team is a good repetition of the industry and you have a very wide variety of talents. From people that are extremely creative, some have gone to art school or design schools, and I’ve worked in agencies before doing very creative work, storytelling work, visual storytelling. And they have worked in magazines before, but they were a bit older. 

And on the other spectrum, you have people who are really hardcore engineers who worked in complex technology. We’re building for example, conversion API, which is a server to server integration. And everything in between. And to me, they represent this industry in its richness, in this complexity, meaning it used to be that it was mostly storytelling, I would argue. And then it was a bit of production, but mostly storytelling. 

And I think in 2021, that industry is storytelling and technology and a little bit of policy and many other dimensions all bundled into what we called MarTech, which is a blah word, cause it doesn’t mean much in my view. But it’s really the subset of those skillsets, which have to do with technology and humanities combined, which is really interesting.


Is technology replacing marketing roles? 

Alex (06:50):

I guess there’s a lot of debate in the industry. And as you say the kind of the MarTech word has maybe lost its meaning in terms of it being used so frequently, but I think throughout the world of marketing and technology, right? We have so many words that we use to describe the same in different things. 

And I guess the industry or the world that we’re working in is relatively new and we’re still kind of almost defining the terminology that we use. But there’s a lot of debate around MarTech and this data-driven analytical side of marketing. Is MarTech replacing jobs? 

Is it replacing human beings in traditional marketing roles or is it empowering them and making them more effective and stuff that I’m sure we’ll come on to talk about a bit more. But how do you see that intersection between MarTech and traditional marketing roles?


Julien (07:39):

So, that debate is as old as progress. But my view is that what makes marketing and ads really interesting is that every time you think technology has taken over, someone comes up with a great story. I’ll give you one. 

I’m into football, a few weeks ago there was this sort of drama around this new league being created. And then the next day Heineken comes up with this campaign, which was basically a beet saying don’t drink and create a league. And whoever is the creative person who came up with that is a genius. It was perfect: timing, visual, everything. Like no technology can come up with that stuff. And that ad was seen by X million, and had all the attributes of a great ad. But on the other side, you need technology for us to reach the right people so that they interact with those products. 

They hear those stories and the stories feel personal. And like the debate of like one versus the other for me is long dead. It’s entirely a debate over how do you use technology to maximise creativity and storytelling? Which is what makes advertising interesting and which makes it work. 

So you buy more stuff and you interact with the message and such et cetera. So to me, they really feed each other. I think it’s starting to happen now because storytellers are becoming more tech savvy and tech companies understand that they need a storyteller. So those two worlds are getting closer. 

And I think it’s our view as a large tech company to make it such that the both live together. It’s also why taking a very tech approach like the one we have, which is we’re going to create a set of API to marketing products. And then developers build on top of that. This is the way technology functions as an industry. For software, for anything. 

And then you need to bring sort of the world of agencies and more traditional marketing into that. So that more and more and more, you have those two components, which are completely necessary for advertising to be relevant in the next 10 years. That’s the way I look at it also. 

I would say there’s also a something magical, which I think we enable to some extent at Facebook. Because we’ve democratised incredibly advanced marketing technologies. I don’t mean to sell Facebook but like, the impact of Facebook and Google and many others is that there were things that were only accessible by very large agencies or very large brands. 20 years ago, those data sets would only exist if you were working for Coke or Pepsi. 

Now you can do a startup tomorrow morning and have pretty much access to the same data set, the same tools. And to me, that’s wonderful because it allows for people that are not technologists to have access to that technology and that dataset. And it also creates a much more level playing field, which I personally see as good for the world and for young companies to have a chance to compete with big companies. And that’s all part of the mix of what’s going on, that is what we’re trying to empower.


Alex (10:47):

And I think that’s a powerful mission. I guess there’s that whole ecosystem of tools and products and things which are really enabling small businesses or startups.


Julien (10:58):

I can give you just a couple of examples. A company we work with in two different spaces, very interesting. One is called Canva and the other one’s called Promo. And they might be companies you’ve never heard of. One of them is an Israeli company the other one is another part of the world. But the point is they’ve democratised creative for small companies in ways that was impossible before. 

They made it such that if you decide to sell books tomorrow morning, you want to run campaigns, you can do a level of sophisticated work in terms of imaging and testing, many, many, many types of creative for your campaigns in ways that only exist in very sophisticated creative agencies before. And that will cost you 50 pounds in your pocket. 

You can use their tools. And that’s something I’m excited about because suddenly, as I said, a good storyteller has access to more assets and more technology, so they can find more people who will buy their books, feel happy by reading them.


How can technology enable creativity in marketing? 

Alex (11:56):

Great point. But I think the point remains is that it’s not one of the other, right? It’s a, these tools exist to support and democratize and empower. And as you said in your previous example with Heineken, unless you have the idea to begin with, it doesn’t matter how good your attack is. Probably not going to get far. 

I guess maybe somewhere on the horizon, there’s some kind of a creative AI that might eventually one day have created the Heineken example that you gave. But I think we’re maybe a bit of a distance off that happening. I’ve seen a few kind of AI copywriting tools taking off with the whole GPT three or whatever it’s called, the AI framework kind of tools that you can feed in a blog post title. And it will basically just like write a blog post for you. I tested a few and the quality was average.


Julien (12:42):

But it’s interesting. Last year I gave a talk about this idea of called flip the script, which is in the world of creative which is, it used to be in the old world that a brand would come and say, I’m trying to launch a new beer, or I’m trying to… 

Think of the example of Coke. I’ve designed this drink, I think is wonderful. And we’ve done a lot of research. We think the audience is white French guys who like football. Go and build an ad for this and then they come back a month later after a few million bucks, and then they have a few ideas of messaging. And that makes its way into TV ads. What’s interesting is when you think about this for a lot of products we buy, we all drink Coke. 

We might not admit it, but we all do. Except that we do for different reasons. You might drink Coke because you’re like me, a cyclist. And after a long ride, a Coke is really nice because you need to love sugar at the time. You might drink Coke because you don’t want to drink because you’re driving. You might drink Coke because it’s hot. The bottom line is we all drink Coke. We do for different reasons. And what technology can do is you can tell brands tell me the best story you can about your product. 

Forget the audience, ignore entirely the audience, which is very counterintuitive for a marketer. Tell me a story about this product. And one that that’s like wonderful. Well, machines will tell you where the audience is. And if you can do this, you find yourself finding customers in places you never knew existed. And realising that basically once you have this, you realize that, okay, now I can sell Coke to athletes. 

People who don’t drink, people who do Peloton, whatever. And now I can craft a better story. So you went from a basic story, to sub stories through technology. And then you can make technology run at scale to run all those different audiences. Which to me makes a creative process so much more interesting. If you can write a book and understand that you book and touch people all around the world for different reasons, man is that exciting for entrepreneurs and people who have stories to tell and things to sell.

And that’s the part I’m probably the most excited about because as I said, the promise of the internet when it was invented was like 7 billion people connecting to 7 billion people and all the business in the world’s connecting to all the prospect customers in the world. For a longest time it never happened and we ended up all shopping on Amazon buying the same thing. The same way for the same price, which is kind of really sad when you think about the investment that went into this tech and the way the world has evolved. 

And finally you get to a place where we’re starting to come at the other end of it with the creatives economy or Shopify or Spotify for music. Which means finally we are consuming things are different. They’re personal to us, to our own preference, to who we are to our culture, to our stories. It’s so funny, there’s 7 billion people are meeting their audience anywhere. 

And you see this in Shopify being three or four times the size of eBay. And you will see with the creative economy, you’ll see it with Spotify, with everyone enjoying. You see with Netflix, people consuming shows. I think there’s a mega trend which marketers can really benefit from, in marrying storytelling and technology.


Does technology enable small startups with no audience? 

Alex (16:08):

Interesting. So I guess as you say, the traditional linear route is to do market research, understand the audience, craft messaging, and then it ends up in the ad campaigns and the TV adverts. But you’re saying that we’re at the stage now, where actually the data about who’s already aware of or engaging with a brand exists right? 

And so it’s flipping it around and working backwards from that. I guess you need a brand that’s of a certain size and scale and a brand like Coke has I guess tens of millions of people, maybe hundreds of millions on their Facebook page, engaging with them. You’ve kind of got that audience already there and you can start to tap into its different segments and different interest areas. Does it work, or does something similar work for a small startup with no audience and product?


Julien (16:59):

But the point is, and that’s a very good question actually, because the point is the reason why it didn’t work in the old days for a small startup is the cost of testing was astronomical. So when in order to test if my book is going to sell in Manchester, I need to run billboard ads for a hundred thousand pounds. Then I have no chance of doing it. 

Because of what I described, the cost of testing is now a fraction of what it used to be. Which means I built my entire startup thinking it was a messaging app, thinking my audience was going to be immigrants. I was basically selling free calling services. It was like, I’m going to compete with Labara. And then we launched it and we realised a lot of our audience had to do with people who were using dating apps and didn’t want to give away their real number.

There was no way for me guess that. And then I realised I was building business A and then realised that I actually had business B. And it was a lucrative business with a real audience and yada yada. And my point is like, the cost of testing being much lower, smaller guys can discover their audience and figure out they have product market fit much quicker. Which means they wasted marketing spent testing things for too long, with the wrong audience. 

That money can be put to work either in product or hiring good people or remarketing to more customers. Which I think makes the whole system work better, build better return for advertiser, more money to be made by everyone. We sell more products, everyone’s happy. Maybe that’s a little bit of an idealistic point of view, but that’s the way that I think the system should be designed.


Alex (18:40):

Yeah, it makes sense. Yeah. I think the ability to start small and scale up, I guess with any paid ad platform, same with Facebook ads, you can start by not spending very much, but still get enough data to learn from and figure out what’s working on gaining traction. As you say, much more cost effective than a billboard campaign across Manchester or whatever it is.


FINITE (19:01):

The FINITE community and podcasts are kindly supported by 93x, the digital marketing agency working exclusively with ambitious fast-growth B2B technology companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams in B2B technology companies to drive growth.


How can technology lead creative campaigns with data?

Alex (19:22):

I guess we’ve touched on this from a few different angles already, but this idea of MarTech enabling creativity and actually serves the storytelling. Are there any other examples or perspectives on that side of things?


Julien (19:36):

Honestly I could go on and on. I would say there are many, many companies that do this. Even in the influencer space with Walmart or Genero for example who’s another partner that we work with. There’s a flurry of companies that are emerging in that space. The one thing I would tell your audience is really, the opportunity there is immense, exactly for the reason I described. Which is, there are ways to automate a large portion of the creative process and there are ways to test it more. 

For example, we’re doing a lot of work with creative insights, with many of our partners, Vitzy, the Source, VidMob, all the creative companies in that space are invested into creative insights. Which is pretty much a big word to say, we’re going to be able to run 20 campaigns at once and tell you very quickly, the very detail of what’s working, what wasn’t working. 

How quickly do you need to tell the name of the brand in the ad? Should the first person to show up in the ad be a male or woman? An older person or younger one? Should the background be blue or green? Like all those iterations, computers should tell you what they are and how people function to them. The underlying idea of the story is to be human driven. 

Computers should tell you if you want this thing to be green and blue. And based on this, you’ll get more and more response and engagement. And that’s what I’m talking about, which is use computers to make them do more work quicker for you. So you can focus on your storytelling, your voice, what you want to say. It’s really coming back to my bookstore it’s like, can you be the best writer you can? 

And then we’ll figure out who’s going to read your story. And that’s really the idea of everything of everything we built. And with the creators economy, it’s even greater now because it’s really, anyone can be a writer because everyone has a story to tell whether through music, art, shops, you name it. Which also frees up the chance for a lot of people to make a living out of their own passion. 

Which to me, that’s the commonality between sort of Facebook shops, Spotify, Shopify, they’re in the same business. Which is, can you take someone, find an audience for their passion and their interests and potentially make a living either through ads, commerce, branded content, you name it, or a combination of all those things, which I think if we do will first be I think a force of good for the world. 

It’d be interesting in terms of the cultural aspects for all of us, but also will deter people from taking the wrong jobs. And make sort of the next generation of people who are in uni to have a chance to have a very fulfilling career and where they don’t have to suffer at work so they can do the things they like outside of work. But more and more bring it together. Which maybe that’s the old guy speaking, I find really exciting. I’m really pumped that we can sort of help that.


Do marketers now have to be analytical and creative? 

Alex (22:36):

Yeah. I love the idea that the solo marketer in a new startup can jump on Canva and create some really effective assets or whatever it is. The example you gave of like the technology optimising the green background or the blue background or whatever, where does a typical creative designer who would normally be creating that kind of asset set then in that process? 

They’re almost like an operator of a piece of technology at that point and still designing, but then they’re quite data-driven as a designer and I guess creatives and data analytical people, usually is a left side, right side brain thing, isn’t it. And they don’t necessarily overlap. So do you think we’ll see more of a, on the people’s side, more of a merging of different roles? I’ve seen some creative technologists and there’s all kinds of fancy job titles out there for different things. But where do you see that heading?


Julien (23:34):

Yeah. I mean, just like in any revolution, the first reaction is fear and then it’s disruption and then people sort of pick up the pieces and move on. For me the jobs that are going to go away are already going away. So we might protect them for a period of time and they will go away because computers actually do this way better, cheaper and more economically. And then the enormous value to be built by bridging the gaps between the crafts, as you said. 

So for me, data, let’s say insights in general and creative, is an extraordinary space and you see it in the funding of like VidMob and all those companies who are getting incredible amount of funding because VCs understand that this is big. And to me, that’s a space where… I’ve always seen and for me, like invention comes from people who work in different crafts finally working together. I mean, all the companies are built this way. 

Look at Steve jobs and Wozniak, the yang and the yang. Like, and to me creative and AI feel very much like this. So either side of the house is going to have to move towards the other and build the right tools so the others can use it and understand it. There are some jobs that will be probably less relevant I think it’s fair to say. But I also think the price is so big and so near, you can build companies in the next six months doing that. This is not like a futuristic view of the world where, you know, one day we are all robots and stuff. 

Like there are big companies being built right now doing this. So to me, that’s the part that’s exciting it’s like, yes we predict disruption but also the price is now. Like Shopify has taught us that there’s a real business. And if there’s one thing we learned in the pandemic it’s that as demand for this, from the consumer perspective, is that brands want to play ball. So to me, the opportunity is really now it’s part of our job as a big platform to both accelerate the transition, but also do it in a way that’s respectful to the whole ecosystem and make sure for example, agencies play a key role in that. And then they can transform themselves to becoming more and more technology companies. 

My technology partners learn to think a little bit like agencies sometimes and be a little bit more strategic about the way they engage their clients, while also building a lot of SaaS tools. Because there’s a wide variety of clients that will never be able to pay or fold full managed service because the economics don’t allow them. And to me, if you enable them, and the only way to enable them is that scale with software tools, that they pay 20, 50 pounds a month to use the Canvas and the Promos of the world.

That’s why these companies are so successful because they serve an immense need. And then a lot of jobs are going to change. My job is going to change. Yours is probably going to change as well. And because of that, I feel okay because I think it’s moving the industry in a direction which I like. Which is better ads, better stories, better ads, better stories, better ads, which I think is the reason why we’re all in marketing.


Will technology replace agencies? 

Alex (26:46):

Yeah. I guess what’s your perspective on the agencies that are the big, big creative agencies that may have clients on retainer at tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of pounds a month delivering this type of stuff? How do you think there’s a real risk that there’s the 20 pound a month Canvas replace some of that work? They’re two opposite ends of a very wide spectrum I know and there’s always going to be that need.


Julien (27:07):

I get that question quite a bit and I don’t manage the agency team, but they work very close to us. And you know, we’ve done a lot of work with those teams at Facebook and also with big agencies. I would say for me the key is understanding what your unique value proposition is. And if you do something which you’re not supposed to do and you do it less well and more expensively than others you’re going to lose. 

It’s true for any business. Every market, every product. For me, agencies are uniquely positioned. For example, do amazing cross-platform work that you cook and you want your stuff to work across tik-tok and Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp and print and TV. Then an agency has an incredible value to add. If you want to be able to consult Coke and like, very long futuristic trend, you have a lot of value to bring. 

If you’re in the business of overcharging for something that Canva can do, you’re probably not going to have a lot of business there. And you see this in the way they’re transforming themselves. In some ways they will never become full technology companies. I think it’s a different DNA. It’s like we are a technology company, we think this way. I would argue agencies have to become more tech savvy, but that’s not who they are. They should keep building on who they are and what it means. But I understand the stuff that only they can do. 

And then probably their pricing model is going to have to change. I like the idea of a big retainer no matter what. It’s great as a business, if you can do this, this is great. As a consultant, as a real estate agent, as a professor, as anything, the amount of market power you need to sustain this is massive. 

And I’m not sure they all then collectively have the market power to do this sustainably when there is price, competition, freedom of choice, and a very open marketplace like Facebook, Google TikTok. That’s the opinion of one, but that would be my view.


Alex (29:06):

It makes sense. I guess to wrap up, final couple of minutes, where do you think we are in, I don’t know, three years, five years. We’ve talked a lot about the future throughout this conversation, but I guess looking a bit further ahead. Are there any big trends, anything you’re particularly excited about, anything you think that’s a challenge?


Upcoming excitements and challenges with marketing technology 

Julien (29:22):

Yeah, so I would say, it might surprise you, but I’m quite excited about privacy, which might be counter intuitive for people listening to a Facebook exec. But I’m really excited about our industry reinventing itself in a way where we are way more, I would say cautious collectively about the information we collect, we store and we use. 

And trying to figure out a way to keep serving great ads that work, that perform well, but people feel like we’re using just to say the right amount of information, not an inch more. And I think that’s a very exciting space, which is both technology, AI, but also storytelling, policy as part of it. So that scenario I’m particularly excited about collectively for the industry. I think we have a role to play at Facebook, but I think it’s really an industry mindset to change. 

And I really recommend people listening to Benedict Evans’ ad tech podcast I did a couple of weeks ago. I think it was really spot on that topic. I’m very excited about building marketing tools for small businesses. That part is really fun and I think a lot of marketers have been trained to look for big clients, but very few think of small clients. And I think the ones who think about small clients are gonna make a lot of money and do a lot of good in the world. 

And third is I think you see a lot of blurring lines between ads and commerce. It’s true with Google shopping it’s true with Facebook shops, with Tik TOK is building. So for me, marketers need to think about ads, but also neighbouring products, and commerce is one of them. And I think the merger of ads and commerce is really interesting. Ads is like a $20 billion business for Amazon already. And to me that’s another area which is super interesting as any commerce guy who ended up working on ads. Those two spaces are interesting as they merge. 

So as I said, privacy is interesting for me and enhancing technologies. Second, building tools for small businesses and like all the companies listening in this podcast and I would say third, the merge of commerce and ads into one offering for everybody, for agencies, for marketing partners, for developers. That’s really three trends that I see to be particularly exciting.


Alex (31:45):

Cool. Good ones. We’re out of time. I appreciate you joining the show. I know you’ve been super busy, but I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and insights with us and the listeners. So thanks again for joining.


Julien (31:56):

Thank you very much. Have a wonderful day.


FINITE (31:59):

Thanks for listening. We’re super busy at FINITE building the best community possible for marketers working in the B2B technology sector to connect, share, learn, and grow. Along with our podcast, we host a monthly online events, run interview series, share curated content and have an active slack community with members from London, New York, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Melbourne, and many more to strengthen your marketing knowledge and connect with ambitious B2B tech marketers across the globe. Head to finite.community and apply for a free membership.

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