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L’Oréal is a household name, with a history that spans more than a century. In my role as VP of YouTube and global video solutions at Google, I see a lot of innovation every day, and it doesn’t always come from the oldest brands in a given category. Still, it’s fair to say that L’Oréal is one of the most innovative, forward-thinking beauty companies in the world. And its approach to marketing is no exception.

Inspired by the creativity and innovation at Cannes this year, Lubomira Rochet, L’Oréal’s global chief digital officer, and I sat down to talk about what it means to be a digital-first company and the changes she’s ushering in to be ready for the next phase of digital marketing.

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Debbie Weinstein, YouTube: Recently, you’ve embarked on a seismic shift toward a digital-first strategy. Why?

Lubomira Rochet, L’Oréal: Digital is changing our industry for the better. Digital is the future of beauty, and it brings new dimensions to things that were limited before.  

At L’Oréal, one of our key values has always been to “seize what’s starting” — “saisir ce qui commence.” Even though we’re a century-old company we’re always ready, even eager, to change. Back in 2010, the company went all in on digital, and since then, we have moved very fast to transform ourselves.   

That has meant recruiting 2,000 digital experts, upskilling more than 21,000 employees, and putting data-driven marketing and precision advertising at the heart of what we do. As an example, digital constituted 38% of L’Oréal’s overall media spend in 2017. It was half that when I joined in 2014.

At L’Oréal, one of our key values has always been to “seize what’s starting” — “saisir ce qui commence.”

This investment is yielding results: More than 1 billion people visit L’Oréal sites and social pages every year. And e-commerce sales jumped by 34% in the first quarter of 2018 and now represent a significant share of our growth and sales.

You’ve continued to invest more in YouTube ads as well. How has that investment impacted the company’s bottom line?  

Obviously, we want to see the results on the bottom line. We have developed internal tools to monitor in each country, in real time, the performance of our campaigns and orient our investment where it makes more sense so we can trust that our investment, whether in YouTube or elsewhere, gets results. And that’s why we’ve increased our investment in YouTube significantly in the past several years.

We’re a global company, so YouTube’s global reach has a particularly powerful impact. Aside from the reach, we find that YouTube is also a fantastic platform to engage with people. In some cases, people spend more time with our brands on YouTube than on any other platform.

How has L’Oréal navigated this evolving media landscape?

Prime-time TV was quite straightforward compared to the world we market in today. It used to be that we relied on 30-second commercials, but now we produce 50X more content that lives as part of an ecosystem and engages people on different occasions.

The game won’t be the same when you simply ask your voice assistant to buy the best mascara on the market for you.

At L’Oréal, we find that shorter can be very effective. Internally, we say today’s pitch is two seconds, and six seconds is the new long-form ad. That means sequence becomes important. Instead of delivering one 30-second video, we’ll use a succession of brief messages through sequencing, remarketing, or simple rotation. Each of these video ad units will be short and product-centric.

How are you thinking about what’s next for L’Oréal’s digital marketing? What’s the next evolution?  

I am convinced we are entering a new phase in digital marketing.

This is why, at L’Oréal, we have a number of initiatives to be at the forefront of this evolution. For example, this has been a milestone year for the company with the acquisition of Modiface, which provides AR technology for beauty brands.  

New technologies, such as voice, AI, AR, VR, are reshaping the way our consumers discover, try, experience, and buy our products. The game won’t be the same when you simply ask your voice assistant to buy the best mascara on the market for you. Or when your mirror will provide you with a personalized beauty consultation. Or if you are able to watch a makeup tutorial directly on your face with a virtual try-on. The brands that master these experiences will be the ones people choose.