Tim Armstrong: "Pay attention to the human operating system"

The AOL CEO discussed his strategy for connecting with consumers in the Internet of Things age at CES 2016

With connected fridges and cars all the rage at CES last week, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong warned a group of marketers in Las Vegas to begin focusing on the "human operating system," a term he coined to describe the expanding digital landscape of a consumer’s life in the Internet of Things age.

"As marketers, we’re going to have to live in a world where there will be a human operating system," Armstrong said, and connecting to it "will require a much deeper skill set."

"It’s going to become exponentially harder" to create engaging content and messaging then it was when ads were made for just a few platforms, he said. "Today, I have to figure out how to get through the second brain you’re carrying around with you. If I want to interact with you, I first got to get to your second brain."

Not surprisingly, he said access to data generated by the Internet of Things—reams of which AOL will now be privy to following its merger with Verizon—would be key to using it as a marketing channel.

"The Verizon deal is really about getting closer to" the machines that make up the human operating system, Armstrong said.

Before the merger with Verizon, AOL had access to 150 million users’ consumer data; following the merger, that number balloons to 700 million, Armstrong said.

Armstrong discussed his views on the "holistic human experience" with OMD worldwide CEO Mainardo de Nardis during a "fireside chat" titled "Impact of Technology on Culture" at OMD’s Oasis at CES 2016.

The human operating system is an expansion on the "second brain" concept Armstrong presented at Advertising Week in September. "From our standpoint, it's highly likely that your mobile phone, which is really your second brain — your mobile machine — is going to be the central figure, from a tech standpoint and a consumption standpoint, in your life," he said at the time.

But the prospect of connected cars, fridges, TVs, fitness bands, even insoles raises the stakes on connecting with consumers through the products that make up their lives. "I thought the biggest change in our lifetime would be the Internet 20 years ago," Armstrong said, "But I think the biggest change is going to be a machine in every person’s hand."

Armstrong welcomed the change and evolution of technologies he saw at CES and encouraged other marketers to do the same. "It’s really important you choose change as your weapon," he said. "Change is going to be a really important cornerstone in people’s strategy this year."

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