Let us face it: ads have become a special type of nuisance that interrupts your daily social media scrolling. Consumer skepticism has gotten to the point where many people dislike advertising so much that oftentimes, it may achieve the opposite effect of what it’s designed to. This has presented marketers and brands alike with a unique challenge when it comes to capturing audience attention and, most of all, positive reactions.
But the truth is, the root of consumer skepticism and fatigue in regards to advertising is deeper than you might think. What turns users off is the fact that the ads are no longer entertaining or, most importantly, relevant and candid. Most ads today trigger an automatic reaction to skip them without paying attention to the content.
With the advent of TikTok, a spark of hope was ignited for brands who want to advertise their products in a new, refreshing and relevant manner. TikTok announced itself as the most fun and casual social media platform. Since its launch back in 2016, the platform survived and succeeded, taking the title of Ad Age’s No.1 Marketer of the Year in 2020. TikTok’s effectiveness as a social platform is clearly evident in the way brands establish themselves on the app. Unlike Facebook and other traditional platforms where brands show a more formal, curated look, TikTok is all about casual interactions, regardless of the brand’s industry. Throughout this piece, we will see examples of “formal” brands evolving from their traditions to connect with users on this platform.
TikTok is a hub for young audiences. Approximately 60% of its users are between the ages of 10 and 29. They range from individuals who use it for daily entertainment to influencers and brands who use it to gain awareness and authority. This makes TikTok a lucrative platform for businesses to leverage. With 2020 being the year we spent the majority of our days at home, the app’s popularity exploded and so did its marketing opportunities.
TikTok offers the opportunity for both individuals and brands to promote their businesses. As mentioned earlier, TikTok’s audience stands out with its unusually high engagement levels: 90% of the platform’s younger audience checks the app multiple times a day. This guarantees wide reach and tons of impressions. The app has an algorithm like no other, ensuring that it’s easy to get higher engagement for your videos. Even if your circle is small, your videos can go viral. If your business is limited to certain physical locations, the algorithm can help you reach users and influencers in that area. With the duet feature, working with these local influencers only brings more benefits.
Types of TikTok Ads
TikTok has a variety of ad formats, all of which serve a different purpose. Given this format, each ad has its own unique method of approach.
A TopView ad is like a normal TikTok video that appears early in your For You Page (FYP) (within the first few seconds). It follows the same format as the normal videos with full screen, vertical cut, auto-play with sound, with a hyperlink to your website. These videos, up to 60 seconds long, allow your business to engage your audience in the most appealing way.
Immediately after opening the app, even before you land in your FYP to receive your daily content, a short ad pops up. This ad can be a static image displayed for 3 seconds or a muted video 3-5 seconds long. Brand takeovers are a big help for brands seeking mass awareness. TikTok only shows a user one brand takeover ad per day. This makes the demand for this sweet spot higher, and so do the prices.
In-feed ads are 60-second videos that are displayed to the user as they scroll through the FYP each day. When this ad pops up, it could be mistaken for a regular video created by a user. It blends into the feed, just like Facebook and Instagram ads do. Since the app is placed between FYP videos, it needs to be highly effective and immediately engaging, capturing the user’s attention in the first few seconds.
Branded Hashtag Challenge:
Branded hashtag challenges aim to reach a much deeper level of engagement with the audience. This is because they encourage users to participate in creating content under the brand umbrella. All the content created is collected on a hashtag challenge page for all to see. There’s a catch, though: there’s no guarantee of a specific reach. To avoid this, brands often partner with popular influencers. Or they pay to have the page displayed on TikTok’s Discover.
Brands can create stickers, special effects, and filters like Snapchat’s branded lenses. These branded effects show up on the first page of the effects panel. They stay on the first page for a maximum of three days but can be accessed via search beyond that. They help brands aim for higher user engagement and are used in user-generated content.
Here are examples of brands from a variety of industries that got creative when tackling TikTok ads and saw the results of their creative work.
Ryanair is an airline that offers ultra-cheap flights in Europe. Their TikTok account is an example of a brand that has taken TikTok’s trends and humor to heart. To advertise the brand while maintaining an authentic and casual appearance, RyanAir created a branded effect campaign, making a green screen filter that is very silly yet very funny. RyanAir rode the wave of the greenscreen trend with hardly anyone realizing that the filter is actually an ad. By using this filter to further ride on popular trends (like the latest Fast and Furious memes), the company has gained massive popularity and now has nearly 1 million followers and more than 23.5 million likes. To think they gained that much during a pandemic!
DoorDash is a food delivery app and platform that has recently been facing a crisis due to the backlash from the Dashers (or the drivers) whose base pay average has been very low. To counter the negative feedback and regain customer trust, DoorDash partnered with famous influencers and launched top view and in-feed ad campaigns that aimed to stir the public image about treating the drivers well more than promoting the service. DoorDash also encourages the people who worked there to talk about their experiences, as well as circulate ads from the Dashers’ perspective highlighting the benefits of the gig.
Chipotle has set the stepping stone for fast food brands’ appearance on TikTok. Since joining the platform, they have maintained their overly casual vibe. And with Chipotle being a famous brand nationwide, they only ever make ads when new offers or new items drop. Making one-day top view and in-feed ads campaigns that carry the same character as their organic posts. These one-off ad campaigns get high engagement rates as people enjoy watching them, proving that a more personable, humorous, and light-hearted approach to advertising is the new way of maximizing engagement — especially if the tone feels on-brand and consistent with the overall brand identity.
WWE’s #wweannouncercontest campaign is happening as this article is being written. The challenge asks users to upload their videos announcing iconic wrestlers like John Cena. The winners (who will be announced on August 16) will get the chance to attend the SummerSlam event in Las Vegas and announce the match themselves. The contest encouraged and encourages people worldwide to showcase their announcing skills. The hashtag challenge garnered more than 8 million views in its first few days. With a few days remaining for the challenge, it is predicted that the number of views will only increase from here.
HelloFresh is a meal kit company that is the largest meal kit supplier in the United States. HelloFresh took an active part in TikTok by challenging its audience to showcase their cooking skills using HelloFresh meal kits in the #HelloFresh hashtag challenge. The hashtag amassed more than 65 million views and encouraged the viewers to test out the recipes themselves by purchasing the meal kits and experimenting with them, showing how easy it is to be a chef in your own home.
Guess’s #InMyDenim hashtag challenge called out the audience to show their transformation from messy outfits to their best outfits via denim. To further promote the challenge, Guess collaborated with Bebe Rexh and her song “I’m a mess,” which was used as the sound for most of the user-created content, generating a deeper level of engagement with the audience. Guess have only joined TikTok recently. With only a few of their competitors joining TikTok so far, Guess plans to lead the way in the industry’s appearance on TikTok. Increasing their brand awareness by using Brand Takeover and TopView ad campaigns.
Newspaper brands are still lacking that TikTok presence, but Washington Post paved the road on how to succeed on a platform that is dominated by a young audience. In general, newspapers might not be the most popular content medium amongst the younger generation, making Washington Post a curious case of astounding success. Understanding that regular news coverage is not likable within the young generation, they began following the route that many brands adopted when advertising in TikTok. The Washington Post makes its goal to be creative in order to attract the audience while remaining true to their function of providing timely and accurate news coverage. The Washington Post began making in-feed ads that promote their latest articles by making funny skits about the news covered. That way they entertain the audience to keep a positive image while intriguing them to continue reading and click on the link. With their business account making organic posts that follow the same style of the ads.
Taco Bell, a nationally known fast-food chain, aims to better appeal to the younger generation in order to increase foot traffic in their stores. In an effort to achieve more brand awareness and entice the public to visit their restaurants, Taco Bell recently partnered with the NBA for their NBA Comebacks promo. The meeting of these two giants created a buzz alongside the already existing hype surrounding the NBA Finals between Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks. Taco Bell took advantage of the already huge popularity of this event and advertised their free Tacos Day promo to it, making one-day brand takeover and top view ad campaigns that got tens of millions of impressions. The campaign gave reason for people to want to visit the stores and was a massive success.
Levi’s brilliantly joined the TikTok scene by taking a risk and immediately launching a branded hashtag challenge that resembled their tagline. The hashtag #liveinlevis challenged viewers to “channel their inner model” while wearing Levi’s outfits. Followers from around the world began to showcase their styles, which quickly grew and evolved into fun skits and dance moves while wearing Levi’s, which quickly increased the bond between Levi’s and its viewers. It also sparked an era of activity for Levi’s TikTok account, which had been dormant until mid-April this year and now presents itself as very active and established on TikTok. The hashtag challenge reached 290 million views and earned Levi’s hundreds of thousands of views for all subsequent videos.
Amazon is a hub for a wide range of different products. It caters to many different audiences that fall into different categories of age, location, and product preference. Therefore, Amazon developed its own strategy to address its diverse audience. First, Amazon split its TikTok presence into several separate accounts that specialize in a particular industry — think AmazonPrimeVideo or AmazonFashion. These multiple accounts gave Amazon the ability to focus entirely on their individual target groups, while the main account maintained a neutral presence. The main account focused on general topics relevant to most Amazon audiences, such as shipping, the website itself, and of course, some funny skits to spice up the feed. The ads, along with the organic content on each of the Amazon pages, also were created with each group’s interests in mind. From those who prefer beauty products to electronic devices, you can find ads in the form of various TikTok video trends like hauls, customer reviews, or even outfit transitions.
One of the world’s leading smartphone manufacturers wanted to promote its new Galaxy phone. Coincidentally, Mother’s Day was just around the corner at the time. One of the selling points for the new Samsung phone is its high-quality camera. Samsung decided to use the opportunity to promote its new phone while giving hero moms the respect and honor they deserve by launching the hashtag challenge #MakeMomEpic encouraging users were encouraged to portray the awesomeness of their mothers. To further promote this hashtag, Samsung launched a series of top-view and in-feed ads, as well as a top #list. The results were extraordinary: people were excited to honor their awesome moms. With nearly 5 million user-created videos, more than 12.4 billion views were generated. Engagement also reached high levels with over 1.4 billion posts.
Oppo & FC Barcelona
Oppo has been sponsoring FC Barcelona (one of the most famous soccer clubs in the world) for over 6 years. Due to the incredible commitment of the passionate Barca fans, Oppo has released 4 Barcelona special editions of its smartphones. This time, both Oppo and Barcelona wanted to build a TikTok presence. So together, they launched the hashtag challenge #GoForItChallenge. They asked fans to choose between 2 of the best moments for the club each. The choices were displayed on the screen and you had to physically move left or right to vote. To launch the challenge, Oppo and Barcelona asked first-team players to participate themselves, which got fans to join the challenge. To further support Oppo, a large-scale top-view and in-feed ad featuring Barca’s first-team players was run. The results were impressive. Over 675 million views on 200,000 videos and an engagement rate of 12%.
With the Olympics taking place this summer, attention to sports has skyrocketed. Nike saw this as the perfect opportunity to capitalize on it, calling for competition under the branded hashtag #BreakItDown. The hashtag calls for users to show off their skills and tricks in various sports like basketball, hockey, gymnastics, etc. Participants’ best videos will be posted on the Nike Tik Tok account. Nike has also teamed up with athletes from different countries who have made their own #BreakItDown videos to encourage the audience to participate. The hashtag challenge was viewed millions of times and Nike’s follower count increased to 1.6 million, despite not being active on Tik Tok before the challenge.
Stella McCartney exemplified how brands should pay attention when looking for TikTok trends to recreate. As the weather got warmer in the Northern Hemisphere, TikTok users started making posts with the caption “Tell me it’s summer without telling me it’s summer.” Stella McCartney used this trend to promote the 2021 summer collection. The brand launched an in-feed ad campaign featuring clips of classic summer activities like eating melting ice cream, drinking cold drinks, and wearing sunglasses — all while wearing pieces from the summer collection in the background. The ad campaign reached more than 3 million views and 20,000 clicks in a short period of time. This proves that viewers were fascinated and pulled in by the ads as they were in line with the current trend, making the brand relevant, fun, and relatable all at once.
All these examples show that we are in a new era of advertising. Simple ads — and platforms we are so used to — are no longer the best tools of choice to target your audience in a more relevant and meaningful way. Instead, creative advertising is the current recipe for success, and so is the ability to adapt to the ever-changing consumer preferences when it comes to content type and channels. Ads should make the brand likable, relevant, and timely — likable, not ignored and repulsive. TikTok advertising, with its many forms, allows brands to take an engaging approach that offers higher user engagement. Need any help to kick start promoting your brand in a different way? Our team of experts will help your brand grow.