October 21, 2020  |  Expertise

TikTok Advertising: Organic vs. Paid

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TikTok. The polarizing social media platform that has older generations rolling their eyes and younger generations dancing to 60-second music clips in the strangest places. Formerly music.ly, TikTok is an addictive, fast-paced, trend-setting platform for the mostly under-25 crowd. With over 800 million[1] users worldwide in 2020, the platform is showing signs of becoming the de facto social media for Generation Z.

To understand advertising on TikTok, one must first understand TikTok itself. TikTok has an international user base that shares their daily lives, and everything is on the table: politics, education, gender equality, music trends, favorite foods, places to visit, experiences to try. Keeping videos under 60 seconds means that at any point, a user can open up TikTok to kill a few minutes (or hours) watching a variety of video styles on a range of subjects.

As Covid-19 continues to impact daily lives, keeping people indoors and in isolation, TikTok has grown exponentially. In September 2020, it was the most downloaded app in the iOS and Android stores. The controversy around the app and its safety has not dampened its growth in any way. If anything, downloading TikTok before President Trump has it removed from App Stores is seen as a sign of rebellion, of being a part of something “illegal” without actually causing any harm.

There is no guarantee of viral fame on TikTok. Like all things on the internet, there is sometimes a moment or a vibe so perfectly captured that it resonates with millions.

One such video was captured in early October 2020, when user 420DoggFace208 posted a video of himself drinking Ocean Spray and listening to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.”[2] Something about the laidback skateboarder vibing to classic rock captured people’s attention, and the video went viral.

People started posting videos of themselves drinking Ocean Spray while engaged in their favorite hobbies and listening to “Dreams” – this included the CEO of Ocean Spray, Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood.

In response to increased sales, Ocean Spray sent Nathan Apodaca, 420DoggFace208’s real name, a new cranberry-colored Nissan truck full of juice. The stunt brought in an immense amount of goodwill towards the brand and introduced a new generation to “Dreams,” 43 years after its release.

As is the case on most social media platforms, organic advertising on TikTok can be an excellent way to build goodwill with existing clientele and reach potential audiences.

To assist marketers in getting their brands in front of users, TikTok has started offering four different paid ad formats, including in-feed video ads, brand takeover, banner ads and branded lenses[3]:

  • Hashtag challenges can be purchased by brands. Videos by the brand and subsequent ads where users insert that same hashtag will be pushed by the platform to users’ “For You” page, which shows users new videos and videos that the algorithm thinks they would like. Guess Jeans promoted the #InMyJeans hashtag challenge, which encouraged users to post videos of themselves in Guess Jeans[4].
  • Brand takeover ads show every time users open the app. Brands like GrubHub have utilized this ad type to blast their brand across the platform for weeks at a time.
  • In-feed video ads appear after a user has viewed a certain number of videos. These ads tend to be similar in tone to current TikTok trends, to seamlessly integrate with users’ viewing experiences.
  • TopView ads are a delayed Brand Takeover ad. Instead of appearing as the user opens the app, it appears a few seconds later. TopView ads take up the entire screen and can run from three to 60 seconds.
  • These ads types run through three objective options: Traffic, Conversions & App Installs. Impression costs are reported to be lower than Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, but the platform currently only offers advertising to marketers willing to spend $500 each day. But for brands trying to reach younger demographics, TikTok is a promising option as a part of a portfolio of digital marketing plays.

[1] https://www.oberlo.com/blog/tiktok-statistics

[2] https://www.morningbrew.com/daily/stories/2020/10/07/ocean-spray-fleetwood-mac-capitalize-viral-tiktok-video

[3] https://www.adweek.com/programmatic/biddable-ads-are-coming-to-tiktok-opening-up-the-popular-platform-to-more-marketers/

[4] https://www.mobilemarketer.com/news/guess-launches-inmydenim-viral-campaign-on-tiktok/531472/

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