Why marketers need to know what's going on behind the screen

Pippa Chambers
By Pippa Chambers | 18 April 2017

As the need for heightened digital literacy increases, particularly among digital marketers, Decoded has been ramping up its presence Down Under.

Spearheaded by British tech entrepreneur Kathryn Parsons, who says “the future is being written in code”, Decoded is a business aimed at empowering people with a better understanding in digital. 

AdNews took five minutes with head of APAC at Decoded, Chris Monk, to find out who is taking its Code in a Day courses, why, and questioned if coding should really be left to the coders – not the marketers.

Monk, who graduated with an economics degree at University College London before working for an investment bank building trading and risk management software, began working at Decoded in 2013. He also headed up the Code in a Day course AdNews attended. See online editor Pippa Chambers' opinion piece 'To code or not to code' on the course here.

Q: Why is it important for marketers/people within adland to understand how websites are built?

CM: It's about a vocabulary and a confidence. Advertising and media is moving to being digital first, some areas more quickly than others (radio is notably still incredibly strong in an analogue way but even that is become omnichannel quickly). If people don't have the vocabulary to discuss digital, then how can they perform in a digital world? If they don't understand what's going on behind the screen how can they be empowered to make the best use of the technologies on the screen?

Q: What industries are attendees typically from? 

CM: Decoded was founded to meet a need in the advertising and media industry as it was one of the early industries to be seriously disrupted and very obviously so. We very quickly discovered that everybody, in all industries, need us. Nobody is safe from digital disruption. In APAC and Australia we have worked with creative agencies, broadcasters, governments, miners, telcos, banks, fintech companies, payment providers, management consultants, accountants, the big FMCG companies... pretty much every industry because change is happening everywhere.

Q: How can demystifying technology help the ad industry?

CM: Hmmm... I don't want to be negative but programmatic, big data, smart contracts, blockchain.... all of these things are happening / have happened / are about to happen to the ad industry. If people in the industry don't understand them, then they can't really hope to remain relevant or keep their organization’s relevant as the speed of development increases exponentially. Code underpins everything in technology and is a first step to crucial digital enlightenment. 

Q: Do you really want people to become coders, or is more about understanding coding and breaking through stigmas?

CM: It's very much the latter. You can't turn people into developers in a day and that's not something we claim to do or want to do. The world can't be made up of just developers. What we do is give people an understanding of what goes on behind the screen, so they can engage more effectively with tech teams and spot opportunities in digital that they would not have before. Saying that, we have had a few people go on to career change, launch apps, build websites etc. but that's not the main aim. CEOs don't need to be developers but they do need to have an understanding of what code is.

Q: Why is coding perceived as scary? Why fear such a big issue?

CM: Many people think of coding as a teenager sitting on their own in a dark room bashing out green text on a black screen to techno music... it's not that at all. It's a creative, collaborative and fun experience but perception is reality to many people. There's also a belief that coding is maths and people say "My brain doesn't work that way"... on Code in a Day everybody builds an app from scratch and nobody has ever failed... most people also have a lot of fun doing it.

Q: Should coding or programming be left to the programmers? Why has it been this way in the past?

CM: That's like saying that doing maths should be left to mathematicians or writing to the English professors... Being a professional developer is a career and a profession and we're not saying that everybody should or could do that but understanding the basics is key to being an effective leader or business person in the modern world. We don't expect managers of footie teams to be the best at playing football... leave that to the players, but they need to understand at least how football is played to be good at their jobs. 

Q: How often do the course run in Australia, where are they held and how popular are they? 

CM: We run two different types of courses, our open enrolment sessions in Sydney and Melbourne every month or so and we also have our block bookings where a client brings a group of their employees along all together. Both formats are proving extremely popular with open enrolments regularly selling out. Obviously a lot is dependent on the time of year and other factors though.

Q: How many people and companies have attended the course here in Australia, and how many globally?

CM: Globally over 15,000 people and 5,000 companies. Across the APAC region it's just over 2000 attendees and over 50 companies.

Q: What is the typical makeup of those on the course? 

CM: In Australia we're a bit more female focused than the rest of the world with a gender split of around 65% to 35%. Globally it's pretty much dead even at 50% women and 50% men. The ages and seniorities goes all the way from experienced CEOs down to brand new graduates and some even younger. 

Q: Since the business launched what are the notable milestones?

CM: We launched in London in 2011... opened New York in 2013, Sydney in 2015 and Amsterdam in 2016... It's been an amazing journey so far and it's only going in one direction.

See online editor Pippa Chambers' opinion piece 'To code or not to code' on the course here.

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