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Ziad Ahmed: Gen Z Consultant

In our latest Art of Sway podcast episode, Sway CEO Danielle Wiley talks all things Gen Z with Ziad Ahmed, Founder and CEO of JUV Consulting.

Ziad Ahmed is the founder and CEO of JUV Consulting, a Generation Z consultancy that works with clients to help them understand marketing to younger consumers. Ziad has worked with over 20 Fortune 500 companies, has been profiled by The New York Times, and was named to the 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 list when he was just 19 years old.

Danielle and Ziad’s conversation about how to authentically engage Gen Z covered a lot of ground, from what this generation cares about to how they’re going to straight-up change the world.

A few standout moments to be listening for:

  • (4:28, Danielle): “… regardless of whether it’s generational or demographic or psychographic, it’s so important to have that story come from someone who’s authentically telling that story.”
  • (16:07, Ziad): “I think Gen Z, like every generation, has looked at the world and said, because things have been this way doesn’t mean they have to stay this way.”
  • (17:14, Ziad): “Gen Z is a young, empowered generation that uniquely knows our power and our worth and isn’t shying away from it. We’re not waiting for our turn and we’ve seen that we don’t have to.”
  • (23:21, Ziad): “I don’t think there’s any question to me [that TikTok] is the most influential platform right now in terms of […] conversation in our discourse or trends that are influencing how we communicate with each other and changing our psyches and psychologies.”

Episode 10: Ziad Ahmed Transcript

Danielle Wiley: Welcome to The Art of Sway. This is a podcast that brings you inside the world of marketing through the lens of influence. I’m your host, Danielle Wiley. Each week through candid conversations with industry insiders, we will uncover how influencer marketing is making an impact across all consumer buying habits and is changing the way we talk to each other. Let’s dive in. If you follow me on social media, you have likely heard me say that Gen Z is going to save us all. Rarely is that more apparent to me than when I’m speaking with Ziad or his colleagues. This is a thoughtful and fun discussion and I hope you enjoy.

Danielle Wiley: Ziad Ahmed is a 23-year-old entrepreneur. He is the CEO of JUV Consulting, a generation Z consultancy that works with clients to help them understand young people. Jude has worked with over 20 Fortune 500 companies, has been profiled by the New York Times and has launched major purpose-driven TikTok campaigns. Because of JUV Ziad was named to the 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 list when he was just 19 years old.

Danielle Wiley: Ziad also just graduated from Yale. Additionally, he is a founder of Redefy, a youth run nonprofit committed to furthering equality. He speaks often on the power of his generation and he seeks to use his voice to push the envelope forward wherever and however possible. Overwhelmingly though, he’s just another Gen Zer spending way too much time on TikTok. You can learn more about him via @ZiadAhmed on all the usual social channels. Well, hello.

Ziad Ahmed:  Hi.

Danielle Wiley: Ziad. It’s so good to have you on.

Ziad Ahmed: It’s so good to be chatting with you, my friend. I’m grateful to be here.

Danielle Wiley: I’m thrilled to have you on here. I guess we should probably share a little bit of background. So how we met in the first place is we had little bit of a meet-cute, I guess.

Ziad Ahmed: Yeah, a little bit of meet cute is right. I think that’s correct.

Danielle Wiley: So you were roommates at Yale with my cousin’s son, because I’m old. Yeah.

Ziad Ahmed: And now here we are.

Danielle Wiley: Now here we are. So I would love if you could start by sharing just your journey because it’s definitely unique and I’m sure you have shared it a hundred times, but you started your company in high school, which is nuts to me. But maybe take us through all of that because I think it’s such an interesting story.

Ziad Ahmed: Yeah. Happy to. Happy to. Well, thanks again for having me. A pleasure to be here. So a little bit more about me. I’m Ziad, I use him/he pronouns. I’m the CEO and founder of JUV Consulting. I’m 23 years old. And long story short, how I ended up here is I actually started a non-profit when I was in eighth grade, built around social equality and social acceptance, which basically propelled me to find myself in a [inaudible 00:02:51] that I didn’t even know existed at a very young age, with industry leaders, with politicians, et cetera.

Ziad Ahmed: Where I realized how often young people are being spoken about but not spoken to. And that didn’t sit right with me. And so my junior year of high school I found a JUV Consulting with this idea being that I believe the world looks better when diverse young people have a seat at the table.

Ziad Ahmed: And I believe really sincerely that the expert on any reality is the person closest to that reality. And I think that there are so many conversations have around the power of the next generation and very little empowering of the next generation with legitimacy at the table. And so I wanted to do something about that. And so I started JUV in my junior year of high school. I had no idea what I was doing.

Ziad Ahmed: Never aspired to do this full-time or to have full-time employees. And six and a half years later, having graduated from college, having grown the business far beyond my wildest imagination, here I am. And we now sit around, 30 folks full-time with offices in New York and LA. And I’m in LA right now, but I’m usually based in New York. And we get to do a lot of really impactful work to center the voices of diverse young people and to hopefully do business a little bit differently, and to do some translation work and community building work and storytelling work that’ll hopefully move some hearts and minds.

Ziad Ahmed: But it’s certainly been a journey and a rollercoaster. And I’ve learned a lot along the way. And I’m still learning a lot along the way. But I think that’s me, that’s us. But happy to answer more questions that you might have.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, I feel like I’ve talked to you about this before, but it’s one of the things that I love about that story is because I feel like I had a similar epiphany which led me to start Sway, which is that I saw so much of the marketing towards moms was being created by a bunch of dudes in a room and it had nothing to do with what we really wanted to hear or what our needs were.

Danielle Wiley: And I just think regardless of whether it’s generational or demographic or psychographic, it’s so important to have that story come from someone who’s authentically telling that story and not just coming up with something that they think we want to hear.

Ziad Ahmed: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more.

Danielle Wiley: So having started the company in high school, what do you think about it now? Do you regret starting it so young and working full time while going to school for, I guess, it was six years it ended up being, because two years of high school and four years of college.

Ziad Ahmed: Yeah. Regret’s a hard word. If I could go back and do things differently, I would. I say sometimes I think I spent a lot of my youth calling myself young and not enough time being young. And so if I could go back and do it differently I would. I don’t know that I mean that I wouldn’t have started the company. I think maybe would’ve started it differently. I think maybe oriented my life a little differently and prioritized my time differently.

Ziad Ahmed: But I’m proud of our journey. I’m proud of how far we’ve come. I feel really grateful to live the life that I do and I feel profoundly lucky that this idea that I had as a junior in high school in my bedroom has blossomed to where it is today. And that I get to work with my best friends and get to be in rooms to hopefully shape culture and make the changes that I want to see in the world at a really young age. And I don’t take that for granted. And I know that a place where I’m at right now has only been made possible by the fact that I started so young, by the fact that I was privileged enough to start so young where I had a head start. And I see how that’s played out and in some ways I’m grateful for that and in other ways I look back and I was like, dam it. I should have just been a normal kid. I never really felt like one. And so I think it’s a bit of both. It’s a push and a pull. I don’t know that I have a good answer for you other than I grapple with that question every day, on both sides of the equation.

Ziad Ahmed: I think the other side of the equation is why didn’t I drop out? Why’d I go to school at all-

Danielle Wiley: Oh interesting.

Ziad Ahmed: I could have had an even greater head start had I been fully committed to this while I was in school and I chose not to. I chose to stay in school and to graduate and I grapple with all sides of this question for sure.

Danielle Wiley: I think no matter what you do, you have regrets or maybe even what ifs. I was just talking to someone this weekend. I did not have much fun in high school because I was so focused, took extra classes so I skipped lunch and then by the time I got to college I was completely fried and didn’t do anything extracurricular. And I think we all have what ifs or how things would’ve been different. But had you not started it, you probably would be kicking yourself that someone else got things done before you or-

Ziad Ahmed: Maybe yeah. I would love to imagine a version of myself that wouldn’t. I would love to imagine a version of myself that isn’t so fixated on achievement and instead fixated on community. And I think that’s the person that I’m trying to be. Yeah. I’m glad I did it in some ways for sure.

Danielle Wiley: And what challenges did you have as you were starting the company or even now, like you said, you didn’t really know what you were doing, so what did that look like?

Ziad Ahmed: I have a lot more challenges now than I did then.

Danielle Wiley: Yes. Well the bigger you get-

Ziad Ahmed: And I think also the stakes are very different. When I started and I was a high schooler and all of us were a high schoolers, the stakes weren’t very high. Failure wasn’t particularly scary because none of us wanted for this to be the main part of our lives. This was supposed to be a small side project. And when we got work, cool. That was exciting. It was a cherry on top. We just thought this should exist. And we waited for people to come to us and they did because we were ahead in the sense that we were ahead in even calling ourselves Gen Z. When we started, a lot of people still thought of people our age group as millennials and we were early to call ourselves Gen Z. We were early to get started in doing what we do. And so people started to naturally, organically reach out to us.

Ziad Ahmed: And it grew because demand grew. But I never thought this would be what it is today. And I have full-time employees who have children now. That is crazy to me to even conceptualize, let alone confront as my truth. But my challenges when I started was how do you even start a business? I had no idea. How do you even structure any of this? To what extent do we want to be doing any of this? And then it just happened. But it was funner and freer in the sense that we were very risk takey when we started because we weren’t really gambling with much. Whatever happened, happened. And we were just having fun and doing what felt right and we were very emboldened and empowered to say no to things, to know our worth and to say no I don’t want to do that. Doesn’t sound fun.

Ziad Ahmed: And now it’s like I have overhead and I have employees and I have offices and I have to make decisions that are best for the whole community that allow us to still exist in a month over month. In some ways stifles creativity because it means that I can’t be as bold and as brazen as I once was. And so I miss that. But I don’t have the same challenges that I did then in the sense that now we do have capital. When we were young, when we were then I didn’t pay myself. You couldn’t pay for anything. We paid all our team members, but the co-founder didn’t pay ourselves and we had to be incredibly frugal because we didn’t have any cash and we never raised money and we still haven’t. And now we have a bit more capital. I can put on a nice event, which is pretty new for us to be able to do that or to do things like that.So that’s cool and that’s fun, that we’re in a place now where we can do big things and do new things. And the challenges in the beginning were getting in the door, getting into the room and now we get invited to a lot of rooms and doors, which is really exciting and cool. But the challenges still feel a lot heavier because they’re a lot realer. While those were challenges in the beginning, I didn’t even know those moments existed. I didn’t even know the cool events were something that I wanted to do. Whereas now, okay, we’re doing those things, that’s great. But there are 1,000,001 challengers in running a scalable business that I confront every day. And it feels a lot realer because this is my whole life in a way that when I started it wasn’t at all.

Danielle Wiley: I’m super interested because I know you had the office in New York and now you off also have an office in LA. We don’t have an office at all. And so I’m so interested in your decision behind having an office and what your thoughts are on that because I feel like what I had seen was that boomers and Gen X felt like offices were vital and then things started to change a little bit.

Danielle Wiley: And then I saw that millennials working for us did not like that we didn’t have an office because they felt lonely. But now that we’re starting to get Gen Z in, they love that we don’t have an office because they want the flexibility. It just seems like there’s a lot of differing perspectives and some of it is generational and some of it is just personal.

Ziad Ahmed: So I don’t think there’s one size fits all policy. I think for us as a company, we think of ourselves more as a community than a company often. And we think the future of business is really community oriented and I think JUV is a place where a lot of people work here because of the vibes and the values. At least I hope so. And I think that’s what I hear. I think it’s a lot harder to curate vibes digitally. Not impossible but much harder. I also think turnover is much higher when people don’t feel connected to their community. Most often when you decide pros and cons of leaving a job, especially when in the agency world we can’t pay as much as brand [inaudible 00:11:16] a lot of the time. That’s just the name of the game and so someone’s going to stay here and make less than they could elsewhere, why are they staying here?

Ziad Ahmed: What’s keeping them here? And I think for a lot of folks, especially young folks, it’s because their friends work here, because it feels right to work here. And because they’re bought into a sense of us, into a sense of a culture that they identify with. And for me, I am very much a part of that. We in the sense… That’s why I work here. I work here because I like seeing my colleagues every day. I work here because I like laughing with them. I work here because I like what us feels like and why I’m quite bullish on in person offices is Zoom calls always end on time. Almost never are you on a Zoom and you like, “Ah, I just happened to stay on Zoom for four hours.”

Danielle Wiley: This is the best thing ever, let’s just keep going.

Ziad Ahmed: But you rarely do that. Whereas in person you lose track of time all the time. And I think there’s something really magical about losing track of time. And I think for a lot of young people… Like my mom, she loved the pandemic from… I mean, not to diminish all the horrible things that happened over the pandemic, but her kids were home and she got to spend time with us and she’s married and has kids and [inaudible 00:12:24]… I think a lot about trying to find our friends and find our spouses and meet our spouse by the microwave. And it’s hard to meet your spouse in a Zoom box. I think a lot of us are still looking for community, especially coming out of a pandemic. And I think the loneliness that Gen Z feels at large, and that isn’t to say that people are itching for a rigid nine to five.

Ziad Ahmed: I don’t know that that’s what people are looking for, but I think in-person convenings, in-person culture, in-person community means a lot to us. You’re seeing Gen Z spend on concerts, on community, on conferences, on experiences in big ways because I think we’re itching for that. We want to feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves and to meet people and to feel like we have people. And I want JUV to be a place where people feel like they have people who have their back, who know them, who care about them. And I think in-person space is a big part of that. But we don’t have a policy where people have to come in every single day, nine to five. Having spaces that we can convene and having flexible policies such that it makes sense for people to come in is the goal.

Ziad Ahmed: But especially in LA we have a house here that’s also an event space for our clients and we convene creators and creatives here and it’s more than just our office. It really is a cultural hub of bringing people together from all walks of life and triggering conversations that matter. And we find a lot of joy and fulfillment in that. And I think for me, I love my job a lot more when I can see the smiling faces around me and we can laugh together. And I hope that’s how other people feel about the company too. And in person space is really important to us to do that for us as a young company where a lot of us don’t have our lives settled yet. This is our settling moment. And so I think having some sense of anchor that an office can offer I think is often important.

Danielle Wiley: I love that it’s… I was saying to someone that I think the pandemic made us realize that we actually do like being around people, but that we want to do it on our own terms and that it doesn’t make sense anymore to have to be around during a certain timeframe, but that there is something really great about coming together when it makes sense and for that community and just to hang out, but to be chained to a desk doesn’t make sense anymore.

Ziad Ahmed: And I think even our spaces, I think speak to the fact that we’re not trying to make people… People work on couches and we have daily dance parties and it’s not a rigid you’re at your desk, but I want for people to want to come in because they enjoy… And I think that’s not enough big companies are tackling is they’re like come in but they’re not really changing how work operates so that it makes sense to come in.

Ziad Ahmed: No one wants to come into the office to just be on Zoom all day. There needs to feel like, oh, this was intentionality that there was a reason that I was here and I gained something from being here. And I think our amazing people ops team led by Maya Irvine, my dear friend, the chief people officer, I think has thought really critically as to what makes it worth it to come in because it should be.

Danielle Wiley: So going back to the essence of what you guys do, just super simply dumbing it down for the people who haven’t thought about this before, if that even exists, what are the things that make Gen Z different from generations that came before or even from generations now coming up after you guys as you are aging up.

Ziad Ahmed: Of course. And I’m getting all of the shows little bit. I live a little bit of scruff. I’m wary one of talking about Gen Z as a monolith or positioning myself as a Gen Z expert in the sense that there are over 2 billion gen Zers A. It’ll be irresponsible for me to claim that I know every reality and every nuance of such a non monolithic cohort. So when I talk about Gen Z, my perspective is informed by my privileged Western perspective and the work that I have done working with many thousands of gen Zers over the last decade and doing a lot of research and data collection both in aggregation and in novel experimental design to have these perspectives that I have.

Ziad Ahmed: But with all that said, and all those caveats said, I think Gen Z, like every generation, every young generation has looked at the world and said, just because things have been this way doesn’t mean they have to stay this way. I think what is unique about Gen Z is the access to digital tools that we have had have met that our disruption gets to be mainstream nearly instantaneously. It doesn’t take Kent State for us to be heard. The click of a button you can bring down Fyre Festival and what an enormous responsibility and power that is. And I think we are living in a moment where Gen Z uniquely as a young generation has had outsize influence from the perspective that as you didn’t directly say but maybe alluded to, we’ve lived in a moment in the last few years where maybe employees felt more powerful over their employers than employers felt over their employees.

Danielle Wiley: Definitely.

Ziad Ahmed: We lived in a moment where a lot of parents felt like they had to lean on their kids to teach them. More so than maybe kids even had to lean on their parents to teach vice versa because of the rapid pace, especially in the epidemic that digital became everything. And we were the most fluent in social media, the most fluent in digital. And we have the loudest voices on a lot of these platforms that are defining culture and defining discourse.

Ziad Ahmed: And so what you’re seeing is a young empowered generation that maybe uniquely knows our power and knows our worth and isn’t shying away from it. We’re not waiting our turn. And we’ve seen that we don’t have to. When my mom was [inaudible 00:17:29] certainly, maybe there were some young people doing amazing, bold, big things. She didn’t really know that they existed. There were three channels on the TV and if she didn’t see them then she didn’t know them and there wasn’t a lot of agency that she had to do huge things at that moment, right in her…

Ziad Ahmed: Whereas for us, I think we’re deeply conscious of the fact that there are young people doing everything at the highest level. And so I think we feel an enormous pressure to perform, to do, to be, and acting on that pressure and doing and disrupting and grabbing the microphone and passing the microphone. And I think we are different in the world events that have shaped our lives. When you think about Gen Z, our lifetimes have been bookmarked thus far by 9/11 in COVID-19. And in the interim you’ve seen nearly continuous warfare, financial crisis, political instability, geopolitical turmoil.

Ziad Ahmed: You’ve seen overseen almost every major institution that’s supposed to be there for us, let us down. And I think you’re looking at a generation that is deeply skeptical righteously about the world around us and the ethic around us or lack thereof and is itching for better really meaningfully trying to achieve better. And it doesn’t mean that we all agree. It doesn’t mean that we’re all on the same page, but I think that by and large you talk to most young people, I think the vast majority of us would say this can’t be the best that we can be and we’ll be damned if we don’t try to make us better.

Ziad Ahmed: And I think that the ability to make us better doesn’t feel as far away as maybe it did for generations prior. I think there’s a sense that we can do it now and we must do it now.

Danielle Wiley: That was going to be my question. So do you think that there’s more hope? I talked to my dad about politics all the time and it’s difficult sometimes because I think he feels so dismayed and depressed and so down about all of it and it’s really hard for me. So do you think that Gen Z, it sounds to me there’s more hope there because you see that you can make change.

Ziad Ahmed: So I don’t know that it’s hope. I certainly think there are many gen Zers who are hopeful perhaps, but I think there’s a million reasons to be really defeated, to feel really defeated, to feel like it’s so heavy and how can we ever fix it? And no one’s on our side. And people have been trying to organize and mobilize their generations and here we still are with these same problems that are getting worse in a lot of cases and who’s listening?

Ziad Ahmed: It feels like we’re shouting in the dark. I think there’s a lot of rational conclusions to what’s wrong with the world. And I think one rational conclusion is, what can I do? These problems are just so big, but then other rational conclusion is burn it all down. It’s not even worth trying to fix it, burn it all down. I think a lot of young people feel that way. It’s not hope. It’s a sense of fuck trying to fix it. [inaudible 00:20:00] know if I’m allowed to curse here-

Danielle Wiley: You are.

Ziad Ahmed: Trying to fix this. This isn’t fixable. These systems are not broken. They’re working exactly as designed.

Danielle Wiley: Let’s whole scale change it. New world order.

Ziad Ahmed: Exactly. I think a lot of young people feel that way. Just burned the whole thing down because the narrative that it’s broken implies that it ever worked and it never did. It never has. If these systems were intentionally constructed to keep people down, to marginalize, to subjugate.

Ziad Ahmed: And I think there’s a third camp, which is [inaudible 00:20:29] wrong, feels very heavy. I don’t know that I’ll fix all of it, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try to make it a little bit better each day. And that’s all I can hope for. And I think people might oscillate between these three different philosophies or ideologies. But I don’t know that it’s so rooted in hope as it is out of necessity. I think to make an analogy, if your house is on fire, I don’t think it’s hope that makes you put out the fire.

Ziad Ahmed: It’s desperation, but it’s not like that you hope the fire… You know what I mean? It’s a sense of it’s on fire, we’re just going to throw everything we have at this fire because there’s nothing else that we could possibly imagine doing because the fire is a flame. And I think that’s what it feels like I think for a lot of young people. It’s not that like, oh, I’m so hopeful the world will change for the better in the sense that I think we have a million reasons to not be hopeful because people have been organizing and trying to change things forever. But it is a sense of the world is quite literally on fire, let’s throw what we got at it.

Danielle Wiley: But you’re seeing the possibility, even with the house on fire example, you’re trying to put it out because you see that there’s the possibility that you can.

Ziad Ahmed: Or at least that you couldn’t sleep at night if you didn’t try.

Danielle Wiley: Right. There has to be some kind of… I mean, hope feels so Pollyanneish, but there has to be some little inkling that something can change or you’re not going to have that motivation to do it.

Ziad Ahmed: I think there’s a hope that maybe we can be better than the generations before us. Maybe when we are in charge, things won’t look like this. And so I think yeah, for many of us there might be some symbol of hope, but I don’t think for all of us. I think some people are… Even as I get older, I feel myself getting more jaded. I used to be more hopeful than I am now. I used to really believe digital tools would make the world better.

Ziad Ahmed: And now I’m not so sure. I used to really believe that our generation would change everything. Now I’m not so sure. And it isn’t to say that I’ve lost all hope. I still believe in the power of our generation and I still believe that there are ways that we can use these tools to make the world better. But I’m a lot more skeptical and I’m a lot more jaded.

Ziad Ahmed: And I think that growing up does do that to you. But I do see, when I talk to 14 year olds that I give speeches to them and I ask them, what would you change about the world? And they’re like, “Genome editing.” And I’m like, “What?” I don’t know what that is. And I think because of the access information we have, I think young people are really informed about the ills of society and really motivated to do something about it. And whether that stems from a place of desperation or hope or necessity or integrity, we’re seeing it play out in a million and one ways and hopefully in aggregate it does change the world. To do your point, I am counting on it.

Danielle Wiley: And so you’re talking a little bit about apps. I’m super curious to know from a social media perspective, where are you spending or not even spending time, but what are you enjoying these days? Just personally, Ziad, hanging out, having fun.

Ziad Ahmed: There is no greater joy in my life than watching television. I love TV more than I do any social media platform. I also think we’re in a renaissance of television.

Danielle Wiley: Yes. It’s very good right now.

Ziad Ahmed: Coming out of the last two years, there’s just been so much money poured into TV and so many shows have come out. And I am rapturously consuming that content. I’ve probably watched 50 seasons of TV so far this year. I love TV and part of that is because I love [inaudible 00:23:36] part of it, because it’s my job to be culturally literate or at least that’s how I justify it to myself. I also spend a ton of time on TikTok. And I don’t think there’s any question to me about what is the most influential platform right now in terms of what platform influences are emerging from, what platform is creating most of the conversation in our discourse or trends that are influencing how we communicate with each other and changing our psyches and psychologies.

Ziad Ahmed: TikTok is the moment unquestionably, but I also spend a ton of time on Instagram. But Instagram is far more so something that I use to connect with friends and DM friends and stay updated in my friends’ lives than it is a way to discover new information or the way to discover new trends or influencers or things of that nature. So from a cultural perspective, I think it is TikTok from a more social perspective I think that’s Instagram. I’m also a huge BeReal advocate. I love BeReal.

Danielle Wiley: I love BeReal.

Ziad Ahmed: I love BeReal. And so I certainly use BeReal. I think there are a ton of platforms right now that different niches and communities love and are obsessed with. Those are the ones that I’m probably spending most of my time on. Or probably Instagram, TikTok, TV broadly are where I consume most of my content. But I love Facebook. I’m going to be honest, not as a company obviously. Whatever we can all have our critiques but… And critiques of all these platforms. Critiques of social media at large. It’s not that I’m the biggest advocate of or fan of any of these platforms, any of these companies. But it is to say that I love Facebook because I think it’s so funny. I love seeing what adults post on Facebook. I think it’s so funny.

Danielle Wiley: So we’re just entertaining you.

Ziad Ahmed: Yeah. I don’t post on it ever. But I love seeing what adults post on Facebook.

Danielle Wiley: I use it really only for the groups. I could give or take Facebook, but I have groups that I check in. For me, it’s that community, not the newsfeed.

Ziad Ahmed: Yeah. I love the newsfeed though. I think it’s hilarious. It’s the funniest social media platform by far. No one realizes they’re being hilarious. But I find it hysterical. But I also love that tells me whose birthday it is, which is very important to me to wish people happy birthday because no other platform really does that.

Danielle Wiley: And what do you think of Gas? I was just reading about Gas today. Do you know that one? It’s like a high school-

Ziad Ahmed: Yeah, but I’m not on it. That’s what I’m saying. There’s so many new ones and there’s another one of my friends were just talking about, which is like BeReal. But you take numerous videos and it compiles into little video GIF thing and there’s so many to keep up with. I don’t know that I’m much of an early adopter. I was relatively early to TikTok I would say. But I think again, as I get older, I’m probably less an early adopter than I used to be for sure.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. Okay. So my last question for you, and this one is sometimes difficult for younger guests because commercials weren’t a thing all the time when you were a kid. But I ask everyone what your favorite commercial was growing up, or what commercial from your childhood has stuck with you?

Ziad Ahmed: That is an amazing question. A million come to mind. I think I’ve always had-

Danielle Wiley: Okay. Good. [inaudible 00:26:17].

Ziad Ahmed: … sort of advertising marketing mind. The one that comes to mind most, I don’t know why this came to mind first, is Danimals Sweepstakes. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Danielle Wiley: I know Danimals, the yogurt.

Ziad Ahmed: Yeah. So they used to have on Disney Channel, they used to partner with the big Disney Channel actors and do sweepstakes. And it was like, you could meet Cole Sprouse.

Danielle Wiley: I would love to meet Coles Sprouse.

Ziad Ahmed: Yeah, Yeah. It was that sort of thing. And there’s a lot of actually internet discourse about it now and retrospects and nostalgia to be like, who won? Did anyone win? Was it all a facade? I don’t know. But we were all rapturously obsessed I think with that motif that they created. There were so many things that I think were marketed so well when we were kids that I loved.

Ziad Ahmed: That certainly comes to mind. It’s not that I remember how it was marketed, but I loved Nintendog. I don’t know where I learned about Nintendogs, but I loved Nintendogs. I loved Silly Bandz. Again, I don’t know that there was a marketing campaign around Silly Bandz, but I was obsessed with Silly Bandz. I was obsessed with Webkinz. Obsessed with Webkinz. And so there were some… But I don’t know that I was really the marketing or more the word of mouth.

Danielle Wiley: It was just at school. My daughter has started wearing Silly Bandz again and she was like, “Where are my Silly Bandz?” And I was like, “I did not save your Silly-”

Ziad Ahmed: Your Silly Bandz. No, but I still saved mine for sure. We a podcast as a company called Just As Vibing. And it’s all about celebrating the youth that we still have left and nostalgia. And we talk a lot about these things that were so… Like Razor scooters. There are certain things that were just so huge or Helis. Helis Have good commercials, I remember that. But there were certain things that were just so iconic.

Ziad Ahmed: I think Disney Channel for me, just huge. The Disney Channel summer games were so important to me. So important to me. They [inaudible 00:27:58] only three summers, but they were so important to me. And also those little songs that they created in between commercials as a part of the commercial breaks to advocate for good causes and things like that. But it definitely all really has stayed with me in a big and deep way, which is perhaps unsurprising given the career that I have chosen for myself.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah, no, I think nostalgia hits with everyone. We all love to go back. For me, when I’m feeling early days of the pandemic, when I was so stressed, I would fall asleep to Golden Girls. Because that’s what I watch when I was little. And it just maybe… And then my daughter would watch Hannah Montana. She’s 21 and she just-

Ziad Ahmed: I just bought a Hannah Montana t-shirt last week.

Danielle Wiley: No matter how old you are, I think that nostalgia just is soothing.

Ziad Ahmed: They did a great job marketing. I remember there was one night where both Nickelodeon and Disney channel were coming out with a movie and it was like Dad knocked on Disney Channel and Spectacular, I think was the name on Nickelodeon. And we were so stressed, which one to watch. And so we toggled back on cable during, like me and my sisters, we toggled back and forth during commercial breaks to watch the other one. And so whatever they were doing, it was working. It was working.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. I love it. I love it. I sometimes wonder if I should still ask this question, but then I end up with a great conversation.

Ziad Ahmed: No, I think it’s a great question. Oh, Trix. Trix cereal?

Danielle Wiley: So that one also goes through all gener… We’ve had ’70s kids say Trix. They’re still killing it.

Ziad Ahmed: But interestingly, I don’t know that the… I never ate Danimal and I never ate Trix. It didn’t necessarily translate to consumption even at that young age. I can identify them as great commercials, but I love my Fruity Pebbles. I don’t know what commercial made me love them, but I loved Fruity Pebbles. But Kid’s Cuisine, no, their commercials did make me want to buy the product.

Danielle Wiley: Buy for Kid’s Cuisine. I bought a lot of Kid’s Cuisine.

Ziad Ahmed: We harassed our mom to buy it. And she was like, “No, it’s bad for you.” Whatever. But we harassed her. We need it. And so [inaudible 00:29:53] should get it for us.

Danielle Wiley: Yeah. Well this was awesome. Thank you so much for coming on, and-

Ziad Ahmed: Thank you. Thank you for having me. A pleasure and a privileged chat always.

Danielle Wiley: And one day we have to get together live in person.

Ziad Ahmed: In person, yeah. You’ll have to come by our place in New York or LA. We’ll have-

Danielle Wiley: Yes, yes, yes. Next time.

Ziad Ahmed: Next time.

Danielle Wiley: Awesome.

Ziad Ahmed: Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Have a wonderful week [inaudible 00:30:12] my friend and excited to keep the conversation going.

Danielle Wiley: Always, bye.

Danielle Wiley: Thank you for listening. Don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. Please check back next Monday for a new episode featuring marketing conversations through the lens of influence. I am your host, Danielle Wiley, and this is The Art of Sway.