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TikTok now has a billion users, so what makes it stand out from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter?

To answer this I spoke with Aaron Goldman, Chief Marketing Officer of Mediaocean, a mission-critical platform for omnichannel advertising that connects brands, agencies, media, technology, and data. 

Aaron has been in the Marketing industry for over 20 years, including CMO roles at 4C, and Kenshoo, a leading enterprise marketing software company.

Aaron was awarded the LinkedIn B2B thought leader of the year in 2020 and is also the author of “Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned from Google” .

When he’s not busy Googling himself, Aaron spends his time with his wife and children and spoke with me from Chicago.

Aaron has a deep understanding of not just what makes TikTok so different to other social media platforms but also how brands should approach this new medium.

We covered a lot of ground, including:

  • What is TikTok?
  • Why is TikTok so engaging?
  • What is the secret to TikTok’s success?
  • Viewing creators as partners
  • Do brands have a place on TikTok?
  • The growth potential for TikTok
  • Comparing Facebook vs Instagram vs Snap vs TikTok
  • How easy is it to copy the TikTok format?
  • Understanding the mindset of the user on each platform
  • Where does TikTok fit into the media landscape?
  • Why TikTok is the most akin to TV
  • The strategic approach to TikTok for brands
  • Measuring the impact of creators on TikTok
  • The social commerce opportunity for brands on TikTok
  • When does entertainment become shopping?
  • What is the future of advertising?
  • The value exchange and the value of our own data
  • The opportunity for TikTok to start afresh
  • Aaron’s experiment to sell his own data on eBay
  • The rise of digital agents that work for us
  • AdTech and the role Mediaocean plays
  • Mediaocean’s partnership with TikTok
  • What will advertising on social networks look like in 5 year’s time?
  • Aaron’s virtual watercooler
  • The move to a hybrid working mode
  • Turning hybrid working into a competitive advantage
  • Educating children about the healthy use of social media
  • 3 Actionable things to do today to better understand TikTok

More on Aaron
Aaron on LinkedIn
Aaron on Twitter
Mediacocean website

My friends at VEED have also prepared a handy little post on how to make a TikTok sound.

Episode Chapters

1:12 What is TikTok?

1:35 Why is TikTok so engaging?

2:01 What is the secret to TikTok’s success?

2:57 Viewing creators as partners

3:28 TikTok NFTs for creators

4:12 Do brands have a place on TikTok?

6:03 The growth potential for TikTok

6:33 Comparing Facebook vs Instagram vs Snap vs TikTok

8:09 How easy is it to copy the TikTok format?

9:47 Understanding the mindset of the user on each platform

10:14 Where does TikTok fit into the media landscape?

10:48 TikTok is the most akin to TV

11:17 The strategic approach to TikTok for brands

12:39 Measuring the impact of creators on TikTok

14:07 The social commerce opportunity for brands on TikTok

14:55 When does entertainment become shopping?

17:24 What is the future of advertising?

18:04 The value exchange

18:25 Netflix vs Amazon Prime

21:13 The value of our own data

21:42 The opportunity for TikTok to start afresh

23:13 Aaron’s experiment to sell his own data on eBay

25:46 The rise of digital agents that work for us

28:21 AdTech and the role Mediaocean plays

32:28 Mediaocean’s partnership with TikTok

33:21 What will advertising on social networks look like in 5 year’s time?

34:06 Aaron’s virtual watercooler

36:06 The move to a hybrid working mode

37:39 Turning hybrid working into a competitive advantage

38:10 Educating children about the healthy use of social media

38:55 Quickfire round

39:36 3 Actionable things to do today to better understand TikTok

40:16 More about Aaron

Episode Transcript

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Welcome to The Actionable Futurist® Podcast a show all about the near term future with practical and actionable advice from a range of global experts to help you stay ahead of the curve. Every episode answers the question, what’s the future all with voices and opinions that need to be heard. Your host is international keynote speaker and The Actionable Futurist® Andrew Grill.

Andrew Grill
My guest today is Aaron Goldman, Chief Marketing Officer of Mediaocean, a mission-critical platform for omni channel advertising that connects brands, agencies, media, technology and data. Aaron has been in the marketing industry for over 20 years, including CMO roles at four C and Kenshoo, a leading enterprise marketing software company, Aaron was awarded the LinkedIn b2b Thought Leader of the Year in 2020. And he’s also the author of everything I know about marketing I learned from Google, when he’s not busy googling himself. Aaron is spending time with his wife and children. And today he’s coming to us from Chicago. Welcome, Aaron. Thank you, Andrew, good to be with you. Now here today to talk about tick tock. So how would you describe Tik Tok to my mum?

Aaron Goldman
Well, I would say it’s an app. People use it to create and watch short videos with music.

Andrew Grill
I’ve always wondered what makes it so engaging, I must say I’m not on Tik Tok. I’ve watched a few I’ve gone as far as Instagram, but I didn’t ever get Snapchat. But why is it so engaging? Why has it broken the social media model?

Aaron Goldman
Well, I’d say there’s a few things. First is the format. Its full screen, sound on music, autoplay, I mean, it kind of fires all the senses and synapses when you’re in the app. And then from there, it’s the algorithm, it’s constantly feeding you videos, it gets to know you, it gets to know how to hook you and you just can’t look away.

Andrew Grill
And the secret to success, the algorithm or is there more than that?

Aaron Goldman
I definitely think that’s a key part of it, you know, they figured out how to keep you watching and it’s also the pop culture aspect, the the way that kind of music comes into play, you know, a lot of music that sort of started on Tik Tok is now kind of topping the the pop charts, little nods next is you know, the grand example. There’s other talent that beyond just musicians that are kind of getting their starts on tick tock, and then turning that into careers, you have the Emilio’s, who now have a reality show, there’s Addison Ray, who launched a cosmetic line. And so for people on on the app, whether you’re a creator, or just a passive kind of consumer, it’s, it’s where all the cool stuff is happening. And so if you want to be in the know, if you want to be cool, you have to be on tick tock and, and I guess back to the point about creators, I think that’s also a big thing that tick tock has done well, especially relative to some of its peers in terms of how they really view creators as partners and take care of them. Maybe part of the Chinese formula is a country that really put a big emphasis on with Kol is is kind of the acronym key opinion leaders. And that’s sort of a cultural thing. And I think tic tac knows that creators are what what draws people to the app more than anything else. It’s what helps keep people engaged and so that they take care of them. They have tools for them, they just launched a creator marketplace that helps them connect with brands to find partnerships. I even just saw, they launched a line of NF T’s where they’re taking top tick tock moments and converting them into NF T’s and the money is going to the creators again, I think little NAS X’s is one of them, where his they’re creating an NF T and it’s just I think part of the the ecosystem and self perpetuating that continues to drive that success.

Andrew Grill
One thing I see a lot on these platforms is that they become really successful. And you’ve probably been around social media for as long as I have. I’d like to think I’m a social media pioneer. I was playing with this stuff before we call it social media. But then brands go oh, we’ve got to be on Tik Tok. We’ve got to be on Instagram, we’ve got to be on Snapchat. It sounds like the creators are really the heroes here. The brands have a place to play and how can brands be cool on tick tock,

Aaron Goldman
I do think brands have a place to play. I think they have an imperative to play because that’s where the attention is from, from the audience’s and consumers that the brands want need to reach. And so they have to figure out the play and it could be partnering with a creator that’s, you know, a model that that can be successful. But then there’s also trying to create an owned organic brand presence, and it’s very different than how you would go about doing that on a Facebook or an Instagram or a snap. And so the biggest piece of advice I always try to share with brands is to think natively to to tick tock this isn’t a place to repurpose video or creative assets that you’ve used in other places. This isn’t a place to just take the playbook and sort of you know, copy and paste it into this environment, you really have to think about what makes tick tock tick, say that 10 times fast. And in so doing, then you can begin to draw people in. And right now we’re still in this early experimental phase. And so there’s no best practices, yet. There’s no tried and true way to do this. And so it’s really just about getting in and testing things, trying things. See if you can create a challenge that gets people excited, see if you can create a piece of audio that might get people wanting to use it. And thinking about ways that you can break your brand down into bits that might be enticing to this audience. And that’s kind of the elements of of success.

Andrew Grill
One thing I’m really interested in is your views on the growth potential of Tik Tok. We’ve seen the Instagrams, the Snapchats, and to some extent, the Twitter’s and Facebook’s grow exponentially. And everyone’s saying, tick tock is experiencing exponential growth. But what parallels can we draw from the rise of Instagram and Snapchat, and how they rose so quickly? Have they started to plateau? And when do you think Tiktok might start to plateau? Just look

Aaron Goldman
at the numbers, then. And I guess, and I guess we could we could bicker about the definition of plateau. Right. But you know, for a lot of companies 510 15 20% growth is fantastic, and especially when you’re talking about such large numbers, but I think the rise was largely attributable to how they grabbed ahold of a certain demographic. And so you know, it was Facebook for a long time, of course, launching with college students and then expanding from there, Instagram had its own actually it started with sort of the the niche around kind of the photography subculture and and then of course, it started to skew quite young. And then when Facebook bought it, it was in kind of made it up a portfolio play was but but people who kind of got used to Instagram at a certain stage in their life to fulfil a certain purpose, sort of stay with it. Same for snap snap then came in really attracted the younger audience at the time, it was the 13 to 17 actually a very similar audience to what Tiktok is attracting now. But when people get into a habit of using Snap, for example, as the way that they communicate with friends as the way they interface with the world and consume content, that habit is well formed at that early age, and it stays with you. So as that cohort of 13 to 17 becomes 17, to 2121 to 26. And on up, snap stays with them because the network is a mash. It’s embedded. That’s how you’ve learned to interact with your friends in the world. And so I think if we see that parallel over to tick tock, I do see that playing out. I mean, there are a billion users, they just announced that a billion users already, Facebook I think has 3 billion across its entire family of apps. I don’t think there’s any reason tick tock cannot continue to grow, both by bringing in new audiences, but then also just remaining so core to the current audience, as that audience then continues to move through life and take tick tock with them.

Andrew Grill
Now, other platforms have tried to copy the Tick Tock concept. A good example is reels on Instagram, does a tick tock style of media best suit only the original platform that it was designed for?

Aaron Goldman
I would say generally speaking, yes, the format for for tick tock works best on Tiktok. Now reels, and even in the spotlight on SNAP, there are other forums where you can create that same type of, you know, vertically shot video with some light editing, you know, set to music, and use, you know, hashtags and other things to kind of drive community and find ability. But that’s where the the comparisons end. And the reason people come to Tik Tok is for tiktoks. That’s it right now, of course, it’s expanding in other things like commerce and others, and we can, I’m sure we’ll touch on that. But the reason people come to Instagram, from if you think about when Instagram first launched it today, now there’s a whole bunch of different reasons. I mean, Facebook, of course, is the best example. You know, Facebook started as a place where, you know, Mark Zuckerberg used it to rate the attractiveness of of his classmates. And then over time, it of course, expanded. Now, it’s, it’s a marketplace for just about everything in the world, as on Facebook. Snap also started as just the ephemeral messaging, you know, the kind of messages that would quote disappear, and now has a number of different ways that you can share messages, you can find people on maps, you can discover content in so doing Yes, each of those apps now has their section, right? There’s a section of the app where you can get things that look like Tic TOCs. And they’ll have different names. But the reason people are on that platform in the first place is very different. And that’s what’s most important to a brand or anyone else trying to figure out how to engage is what’s the mindset of the user on the platform, why are they there, and then the creative execution becomes the next you know, that’s almost secondary to the intent of of the person on the platform. And so just copying from one to the Next, yes, you can have that same video set to the same jingle. But at the end of the day, if it doesn’t meet the person where they are based on why they opened the app in the first place, it’s not going to be effective.

Andrew Grill
So probably a nice segue with so many social media players, where does tick tock fit into the media landscape?

Aaron Goldman
I don’t consider tick tock social media, I don’t think they consider themselves social media. I consider it entertaining, I consider it just media, you know, it has a social element, but but just barely, you know, when you open the app, the first thing you see the default is kind of the for you fee, which is curated by tick tock and, and every now and then, you know, your friends or people you follow will come up in your for your feed, or of course, you can manually kind of toggle over to the following feed and only see the people that you’re connected to or have chosen to follow. But by and large, it’s, it’s broadcast, it’s, it’s most akin to television, I think, than any other type of media where, you know, turn it on and see what and just lean back and see what see what’s playing. And so from that sense, I think the the entertainment aspect, the ability to the way it sets, pop culture standards, you know, it’s really akin to television, television used to be the driver of you know, what was hot and trending. And now you see that happening on tick tock.

Andrew Grill
So we’ve touched on brands before, but what should brands strategic approach be to tick tock? And who do you think’s getting it right at the moment,

Aaron Goldman
there’s no best practice yet that that book hasn’t been written. I’m sure if I ever get around to writing my next book, everything I know about marketing, I learned from tic tac. But that’s gonna be a few more years before before we’ve got that figured out. And so when I hear strategic approach, I would encourage brands to forget the word strategic and just have an approach. Too many people I think, are sort of sitting on the sidelines waiting for there, you know, that magic answer that formula, you know, seeing what others do, and then they’re going to apply it themselves. And I really just think you got to get in there and test you got to try different things. Try different executions. See what works, you know, who’s getting it right, you know, the truth? I don’t think anyone’s really getting it right at this point. Because because there is no right, you know, the rules are, are still being written. But But what I can say confidently is those who are are doing it, those who are engaged, they’re either consuming the content just to learn or hopefully producing content, starting to buy ads, they’re going to be the ones who are going to be best positioned to develop a strategic approach, because they’ll have kind of been able to play around, test and learn and be able to apply things as they go forward.

Andrew Grill
So you mentioned the word creator. And sometimes people use it interchangeably with influencer, because there are people that are really popular on the platform. So how can you measure the impact of influence or credit content on a platform like, tick tock?

Aaron Goldman
It’s hard and this is another one where there’s no magic answer. And this isn’t unique to tick tock. If you think of it as influencer marketing in general, it’s it’s difficult to draw the line from what you paid for in terms of if you’re, you know, a brand sort of buying your way in. Or really, that’s, there’s a number of different ways to do it. But then you’re trying to see the outputs from from your efforts. And it’s challenging. Now, tick tock did just announced a set of tools that can allow for things like direct purchase through the app. So there’s, you know, that the TIC tock baby by it is kind of a something that has, it’s a phenomenon that just sort of emerged organically, now they’re codifying it and putting some actual functionality around it so that you can have products surface through you can direct click, even from a profile within Tiktok, you can showcase a number of different products. So there are going to be more direct response mechanisms for brands to be able to track this stuff. I always like to just go back to a simple split test, you know, benchmark your sales before you started a programme and then see if there was a lift during and after. It doesn’t have to be rocket science. And again, I encourage people not to wait until we’ve sorted out the multi touch attribution model for tick tock to get in there and start doing things.

Andrew Grill
Commerce is an interesting area and brands want to sell things. What’s the social commerce opportunity for brands that are on tick tock,

Aaron Goldman
its massive and again, up till now it’s been largely organic in terms of, you know, things just sort of trending going viral and selling you know, there’s the leggings, you know, tic tac made me buy it. And now though, Tic Tac is really putting some structure around it. They just held a marketing partner conference called tic tac world. And they rolled out a bunch of new features. So things like shoppable links, live stream shopping, I mentioned that they have sort of the product galleries, now that you can view and then they also announced a whole number of partners and integrations so Shopify square other commerce and payment platforms to make it super easy both for consumers to transact through tick tock and then also for for companies and brands to sell.

Andrew Grill
When does entertainment become shopping? And are the lines blurring with these new platforms.

Aaron Goldman
Absolutely, absolutely blurring. And, again, it’s not just, you know, unique to tick tock or even social for that matter, the television is becoming more Shopify, you know, with with streaming now, there’s new ad formats where you can start to click and buy and, and actually think Amazon is probably best positioned when it’s got its commerce engine. And then of course, it has Prime Video. And so you marry those things together. If you’ve watched Prime Video, and you’ve you pause the show, you can see that the data that comes from IMDb, which which Amazon also owns, and you can see the actors in each scene, and it’s only a matter of time before you’d be able to do the same thing and then see the products in each scene. And, and that really, it certainly blurs the line between entertainment and shopping. It also blurs the line between content and advertising. I mean, there’s always been sort of a, you know, paid, earned owned, kind of trot triangle to marketing plans. But as you start to think about the same types of ways that as a brand or retailer, you’ve worked with platforms like a tick tock a snap a Facebook or Pinterest has great shopping platform kind of built in Amazon, Google for that matter, and you organise your feed of products in a digital feed that can be ingested into these types of platforms. If you think about tick tock certainly will be rolling out something similar, where if you have, you know, 1000 skews of products, and you can just feed them in, and they’ll sort of automatically cycle them and show them based on its own algorithm. But then even back to the, you know, the television or Amazon example, imagining having that same feed, powering what you’re seeing on screen, and then being able to, you know, map the, you know, the shirt in a certain scene, or the, you know, the, the could be the electronics in the back and on down the line,

Andrew Grill
you make an interesting point, I only just now thought about, you know, when you pause the video from Amazon Prime, it’s called X ray, I think I’m paying for Amazon Prime, I’m paying for Netflix, I don’t want to be interrupted. And I haven’t yet seen a traditional ad on those platforms. Now, Netflix, as we know, has said they are likely to launch an ad funded lower tier subscription sometime soon. However, when I play with our friends over at YouTube, I’m screaming every time I see a very inelegant, boring pre roll ad that I have to sit through and I can’t skip to see the content about something I really care about. What’s the future of advertising, is that marrying the content you’re seeing when I choose to pause the action, I want to have an interaction, or are we just going back to the old ways where you get interrupted, and your feed is just full of ads,

Aaron Goldman
it’s going to be a mixture of both. And of course, there’s this other element coming in with privacy and government regulation in terms of how data can be used and how consent can be given that is kind of steering things back towards more of a broadcast more of the annoying way because I can’t follow you around and know everything about you and therefore show you the best bespoke ad for what I know about you. If we just take a step back, it’s almost the principle of value exchange between customer in this case of let’s call the content provider, Netflix Yes, you you pay a monthly subscription fee, for the right to view a whole host of content without having to do any advertising. Amazon Prime a little different. Technically, Amazon Prime comes for Prime Video comes free with your Prime membership. So you’re paying so that you don’t have to, you know, have delivery fees for the products that you buy. And then you also get this great content. And so your expectation, while up till now, they haven’t run advertising or commercials as we know them, if they begin to introduce them, and they do it in a way that’s maybe not too annoying. The value exchange, you’re not sitting there saying well, I’m paying, you know, 20 pounds a month, you know for this, and now they’re showing me ads, this is crazy in the back of your mind, hopefully. And if they do good product marketing with the launch, they’ll remind you, you know, this is a free added value service. And by the way, you’re now going to even be able to get more value because we’re not going to show you ads we’re gonna give you the opportunity to see what is being featured in the great scenes of whatever shows you’re watching. If we shift over from from those examples, though, to maybe even back to tic tac, or other digital platforms. Up until now the trade off has been the apps are free. And people understand and and really just all Internet content for the most part of those subscription models are taking off more with media on online. For the most part, there’s been a trade off, I’m gonna get free content on the internet and in exchange, I’m going to see advertising and that is a little different equation depending on the app depending on the property, but if you just think about what that fair value exchanges and then do the proper amount of messaging and informing people what to expect. I do think you can bridge that gap.

Andrew Grill
I’m so glad Had you mentioned the word value exchange? Because I use that phrase all the time. And I think we’ve got to think about that. In fact, I’m doing a talk soon to a business leaders group in Santa Monica. And one of the things I’m going to talk about is the need for this value exchange, with things like Cambridge Analytica coming out a few years ago, now, the person on the street because they’ve seen it on social media is saying, Facebook did what with my data, I don’t think the average person realises that there is a need for a value exchange. I think you’re right with the right education. The Amazon example is perfect, I absolutely understand how that model works. So yes, it is included. On top of that, I get my packages for free, and I’ve got Amazon things coming every single day. But there’s a value add, you’d normally pay Netflix 12 to 15 pounds. On top of that, we’re giving it to you at no extra cost. So I think that’s really important. I’m interested in your views here, you’re a smart marketer, so am I, we know the value of our own data. But as consumers becoming more and more savvy, as governments and our regularity and clamping down on things with the fangs, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, perhaps consumers will start to understand the value of their own data. My view as a Futurist has been that in a few years time, my digital agent will negotiate a different deal with Facebook than you’ve got. And rather than clicking Accept all terms and conditions, because I give a bit of my data away, maybe you give more data away and will have a different relationship with Facebook. This is a broader question. It’s not just tick tock that value exchange when consumers become savvier? Where do you think the needle will lie between everything or nothing,

Aaron Goldman
somewhere in the middle between everything and nothing? I think the opportunity here for Tiktok is to start afresh, I think Facebook set a very difficult standard for for people to follow. Nobody really understood this, you know, in terms of how the consumer impact would be even with Cambridge analytical, they’ve had a colossus PR crisis around this, and many others since then. But I genuinely don’t think there was malicious, there was no malicious intent on behalf of Facebook, they just didn’t realise how the data was being used. They were growing too fast moving too fast. Now that we’ve seen that, you know, unfortunately, they’ve had to take a number of lumps along the way. And in so doing, they, they’ve lost a lot of consumer trust, you know, and I still get people who asked me if Facebook is listening to them through the microphone on the phone, because the ads are just so darn relevant. And as the advertising professional, I’m like, Well, would you rather see that or you know, some ad for a pharmaceutical drug that has nothing to do with you, there’s sort of the messaging and PR aspect of it, and tick tock has a chance to kind of start fresh and say, Hey, this is how it’s gonna work. And this is what you can expect. Now, of course, the challenge, you know, hanging in the background of all this with tick tock, of course, is the bytedance, the Chinese ownership and the way that that data and regulation works in that country, versus the rest really the rest of the world. And there’s going to likely continue to be some, some tension around how all that comes out to play. But but they have a chance to kind of reset that that value exchange. I’ll share one story with you, Andrew, this was probably 1012 years ago, I ran an experiment. And I put in a posting up on eBay for my personal data. And I said, and at the time, I did it anonymously. And I said, Hey, I’m willing to give you 30 days of my credit card purchases, my internet browsing my Google search history, I’ll package it all up and deliver it to you. So you don’t have to follow me around on the internet and use cookies and asked me to fill out surveys or other things, I’ll just hand it to you. And you can show me whatever ad you want. And I guarantee you you can show me a different ad every day for 30 days. And I guarantee you I will look at the ad and I will tell you if I’m interested or not. And I was of course trying to make a point about how the value exchange could work. I was also trying to get a little personal brand recognition out there in the industry. So and then it went to auction there were about 30 bids, I ended up selling my data for over 150 pounds. I donated it all to Susan Komen Breast Cancer Research because I was really trying to make money off it. But the point I was trying to prove is that if if everything happens on the up and up if the consumer understands the trade off, there is value there. There’s no doubt that’s why Facebook is a trillion dollar plus valued company because there are what they have is valuable information that can be monetized. The question is who is in control of the monetizing, and I do think the equation needs to shift back towards the consumers. And I do think that’s an opportunity that tick tock and others who are kind of just starting now have

Andrew Grill
I’m Australian, so I’m going to use an Australian example. The federal government in Australia did a big inquiry into the power that Facebook and Google wield as an appendix to that 600 page report. They had some of the interns go through and look at what it takes to sign up to a Google or Facebook platform. And the fact that you push the accept everything button, and there’s no room for negotiation. So I think you’re right, regulators are actually saying there needs to be a little bit more of a value exchange. And the reason that Facebook is such a valuable company is they don’t give any money back to the end user. Imagine if we were able to share in that wealth, I love your story about selling your data, because I keep saying I think my data is worth probably 500 1000, maybe 5000 pounds or dollars a year. Because if you don’t have to ask me questions and show me ads, that I think will be a very valuable proposition. But how do you scale that, just want to throw an idea out, which I’m going to test because when I mentioned this idea, a lot of advertisers start throwing things at me from the stage. But I think we’re not that far away from having these digital agents, the mobile phone in front of you, the cell phone knows everything about you, all your social media feeds your bank balance when you’re travelling next, your next appointment, what about if I can have a digital agent run my life, I’ll give you an example. My health insurance is due next month. So rather than me going to a bunch of price comparison websites, as you and I know the ones at the top of the ones that are paid to be there, they don’t always give the best value. But my digital agent does all the analysis and then goes and does digital deals with other places comes back and does the analysis says well, if I give away my health data, or this one time hash, I’ll get a 40% discount. So my digital agent does a deal, then messages me saying I’ve renewed your health insurance with another provider. The issue there is we don’t see ads anymore. Because if my digital agent is doing all the deals for me, I don’t need to see any ads. In fact, if you want to advertise to me, you’ve got to work even harder to get through my digital agent. Do you think this could possibly be the future in say, five or 10 years,

Aaron Goldman
what you’re describing is the way that advertising technology works today. I mean, that’s what Facebook is doing. Facebook is acting as that broker, they’re just not consulting or cutting in the consumer in on the equation. But basically, an advertiser goes to Facebook and says, Hey, I’m looking for people who are interested in this product, I’m willing to pay this much. These are likely to be the age, gender, location, other attributes. And then they’re just sort of collecting across their 10 million advertisers and doing the matching, it’s Facebook’s agent that’s doing the connecting not the person’s agent. And so flipping that on its head, and putting that power into the consumers is absolutely can be done just terribly difficult to scale. Right, because, you know, Facebook has 3 billion people every month using its apps. And so the power of being able to do those connections is having being able to match 3 billion people with 10 million advertisers, same for Google and others are now starting to build that scale. But you have to have both the supply and demand in one system in order for the value to come across. If I’m a consumer and I send my agent out to you, and the query comes back not found that’s a a poor experience, I’m likely not going to do it again. But because Facebook has so many on both sides, it can find that, that that perfect match. And unfortunately, peoples view that as creepy. And that goes just back to kind of the you know how you set expectations and make the value exchange clear.

Andrew Grill
So I want to drill down into a bit more of what media ocean does. You’re one of 1000s of ad tech platforms. Whenever the new Mar tech roadmap comes out, I see more and more brands and logos added to that. How would you describe ad tech? And what role does media ocean play in this ecosystem and industry,

Aaron Goldman
ad tech is I think best described just by spelling it all the way out advertising technology. And of course, that still leaves a lot to be defined. But ultimately, it refers to technology that helps advertising get delivered in mediations case we kind of sit as sort of the core infrastructure for the advertising industry. There’s more than 150 billion pounds of media that runs through mediations, that’s about a third of all global advertising. And our kind of core system is helping the planning and buying and then ultimately like the billing and payments of that advertising flow through from the brand to the agency to the broadcaster or the publisher, and just making that process as efficient as possible. Over the last couple of years mediation has expanded and that’s actually how I joined the company. There was an acquisition of a company called foresee in July of 2020. We just this past year bought flash talking for cm flash talking are both companies that add value on top of that that core advertising infrastructure with foresee we had a build technology that plugged into all the walled gardens we’ve been talking about or we actually call them closed ecosystems which conjures up more lush growth environments, then you know, places that will lock in, but it’s you know, we plugged into Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, snap, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Amazon, and so if you’re a brand or an agency and you wanted to go in in one central place to build your ads define your audiences that you want to reach set the bidding amount for what you’re willing to pay for the ads, you could do all that through foreseen flash talking also built a number of products. There’s an ad serving product, which helps the ads deliver on the page, they have a product that helps with what we call dynamic, creative personalization. So depending on what we know about the person using, of course, privacy compliant means we can make the ad bespoke. And so you know, maybe it’s a red background and a 20% off promotion. And so, as we’ve expanded as mediation, and now plug these solutions in together and integrated them, what we really allow people to do is advertise at scale across all the different channels that are happening out there. So you can kind of go into mediation, say, Hey, I’m a business that sells these things, I’m willing to pay this much for each lead, or each sale I get. And then our kind of data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning can just go to town and and place everything out to the satisfaction and ultimately results that the customer is looking for.

Andrew Grill
Well, that was gonna be one of my questions about the use of AI. Where does AI play in this ecosystem? And where will it play in the future? How smart will these platforms get thanks to AI?

Aaron Goldman
AI plays a critical role. Although there are still some things that I would say can’t truly be automated and turned over to the bots just yet. You know, there is still room for kind of good old fashioned intuition, especially in in advertising, and maybe not all the way back to the Don Draper. Madmen days. But but if you think about some of those core insights, you know, especially in today’s world, where so much emphasis is placed on brand values, what do you stand for? When does a brand take a stand? We live in sort of cancelled culture. So if you mess up and say the wrong thing, or the bot puts your ad in the wrong place, you could be out of a job as a marketeer or your company could be out of business. And so there is still an important role for humans to play. But But back to AI, there’s so much that it can do in advertising from calculating, you know, who’s most likely to respond to your ad, which channels or placements are most likely to reach them? What’s the right message, it’s going to engage them with the exact amount of money that each ad is worth to me. And those are things that used to be done manually, but but no reason to keep it that way anymore. And so that’s really at the core of what’s operating a lot of the advertising technology infrastructure these days, and certainly at the core mediation.

Andrew Grill
So you’ve announced a partnership with tic toc. What more can you tell us about that?

Aaron Goldman
We’re really excited, what we are doing is we’re building a solution for tic tac that actually does a lot of the stuff that I just described, being able to help you decide as a brand, who on tic tac would be the most lucrative audience for you to reach and actually set the parameters around who would see your ad, we can help you with the creative messaging and figuring out what elements should go into the ad. And then what what you should bid. It’s an auction, there’s an auction system for advertisers who can bid for placement on Tik Tok. And so we’re building out a system that’s going to allow you to manage all that alongside what you’re doing on Facebook, Instagram, snap, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Amazon. So rather than having to go and log into each of those places, and play with their own settings, you can do that centralised through mediation using our social ad solution, which was acquired through foresee

Andrew Grill
big question, because on the futures to you, what will advertising on social networks look like in five years time?

Aaron Goldman
Well, I don’t think it’ll look like advertising at all. I really think it’ll be truly immersive. We talked about some examples where kind of content and commerce blur and rather than an interruptive ad, there’s more like overlays or freeze frame type of interactions. But then I also just think the social networks are going to evolve a lot and what look like they do today, it’s going to be much more about VR AR or, you know, Zuckerberg calls it the metaverse. And so as we think about them, what branding and advertising looks like in those environments, it does have to take on a new, literally a new shape and a new form to meet that environment.

Andrew Grill
Welfare, I spotted something behind you. It’s a virtual water cooler, which I think’s amazing. You’ve got a fantastic story about why you set that up.

Aaron Goldman
One of the first things that I did when I had to set up a home office when when our offices shut down due to COVID was well actually the very first thing I did was upgrade my internet connection. The second thing I did was go out and get a water cooler because it was so important to try and think about ways to recreate the offence experience in terms of collaboration with colleagues and thinking through ways in which we could keep sort of the the energy alive even though we’re now in our own, you know, little rooms and and and boxes on the screen. And the watercooler is kind of that quintessential epitome of office culture, right we gather around the watercooler we gossip, you know, it’s just a chance for informal, spontaneous conversation to happen. And I thought that was really important to try Ready to recreate as we all move into this, this new world. And so I put the watercolour, it also, frankly just helps me stay hydrated throughout the day, I don’t have to go all the way to the kitchen to use the faucet. But what I’ve done is I’ve have meetings that are scheduled. So it’s not completely spontaneous. But I scheduled meetings with colleagues, titled watercooler. And so the expectation is we’re just gonna have a chat, there’s no agenda, we don’t have to take notes. This is just what’s going on in your life. What’s the latest scuttlebutt? Did you catch that show over the weekend? What did you think about the big game, I’ve tried to rotate in terms of who I meet with. So it’s different people from different departments, people who I would normally ordinarily only have seen passing, you know, through the kitchen by the water cooler in the office. And so it’s been a really nice way to stay in touch with folks. And it’s kind of spread throughout the company where other people are now holding their own water cooler sessions, and really just trying to keep that that spark and spontaneity live through this strange time.

Andrew Grill
It really is a smart idea. And I think all the people I speak to on pretty much all of my podcasts say, the one thing they have been missing is that spontaneous serendipitous moment, what are your plans going forward? As an organisation? Will you go fully hybrid, and how will you manage when you’re not in the office? Will you have those hopefully, real water cooler conversations, when you’re all together,

Aaron Goldman
are working through all that now, and there’s going to be a more flexible structure to how to return for work. And of course, it’s going to be different by each country. Mediation is a global organisation, we have 30 locations around the world. And so each country has kind of forming its own timeline based on the nature of the pandemic in that specific location. But as a company, we’re really trying to set a tone where it first and foremost, our employee safety is most important. So that’s going to guide all of our decisions. From there, we do know it is really important for company culture, for productivity, for work output, for delivering for our customers, that happens best when we are together. But we’re trying to balance both the safety aspect and the delivery aspect with also what we’ve all found is now the personal aspect, a lot of people like having a little more flexibility and the ability to do do things in more of a hybrid way. So we are going to go back in a hybrid way. And for people who do want to or for for departments where we think it’s important that people are together, there’s going to be a safe way where we do that for departments where the work can be done from anywhere. And we’ll just find ways to collaborate virtually, we’re going to enable that. And a lot of the way that we’re thinking about it is trying to play people to their strengths and trying to turn actually this new hybrid model into a competitive advantage, and how can we find ways in for certain roles, certain departments, certain situations where that hybrid becomes a new advantage, and it certainly has allowed us to rethink kind of how we how and where we hire people, and being able to, you know, just make sure that we’ve got the best talent, regardless of physical location.

Andrew Grill
Final question, before we do a quick fire round. You’re a father, how do you educate your kids about having a healthy association with social media?

Aaron Goldman
First and foremost, is I don’t set any strict limits or bands around anything, I just know that that that’ll backfire. They’ll just go behind my back and do it. I’d much rather they do it in front of me, where I can sort of help monitor, not monitor or at least help them navigate safely. And so my ground rules are pretty simple. It’s it’s don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know, don’t chat with anyone you don’t know, if you come across a video that you know is not appropriate, then skip it. And that’s pretty much it, the rest of it leave to their discretion. I feel like if you if I show some trust, I show some empowerment, that’s gonna get a lot further than me trying to set strict limits. And so far it’s working. At least as far as I know.

Andrew Grill
This brings me to my favourite part of the show, the quickfire round iPhone or Android, iPhone, PC or MAC MAC, biggest hope for 2022

Aaron Goldman
World peace and an end of pandemic.

Andrew Grill
When did you last Google yourself?

Aaron Goldman
Oh, I’m doing right now and you just can’t see my hands.

Andrew Grill
One thing you want to, again, post pandemic home haircuts, how would you like to be remembered?

Aaron Goldman
I would love to be remembered as the Lin Manuel Miranda of ad tech.

Andrew Grill
Well, you’ve got to be in the room where it happened. He flipped

Aaron Goldman
the establishment on its head with his approach. And I just feel like that’s what ad tech needs right now. And I hope I’m a catalyst to bring that about.

Andrew Grill
So as this is the actionable futures podcast, what are three things our listeners can be doing today? When it comes to tick tock or advertising in general? The first

Aaron Goldman
is just get on if you’re not already, you know, play around understand it. Second would be to talk to someone who uses it. Ideally, someone in the kind of Teenage Demographic, where it’s so popular right now. And then the third would be Just just then test it, you know, for your brand for your business. You know, try some things, see what works. Learn from it.

Andrew Grill
Aaron, I really enjoyed our chat today. You’re obviously someone who’s very passionate about marketing and have been doing it for a long time. I love the stories you’ve told, how can people find out more about you would do work?

Aaron Goldman
Well as you’d expect. I’m all over the socials. My handle is almost always at Erin Goldman on Instagram, I got beat out. So I’m Erin Goldman one. The company is at Team media ocean. And of course, you’re can always google me.

Andrew Grill
Aaron, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been a fantastic discussion.

Aaron Goldman
My pleasure. Thanks, Andrew.

Thank you for listening to The Actionable Futurist® podcast. You can find all of our previous shows at And if you like what you’ve heard on the show, please consider subscribing via your favourite podcast app, so you never miss an episode. You can find out more about Andrew and how he helps corporates navigate a disrupted digital world with keynote speeches and C-suite workshops delivered in person or virtually at Until next time, this has been The Actionable Futurist® Podcast.