The power of TikTok: Here’s what brands need to know

A new force in the realm of social media has arisen called TikTok and brands should take notice.

Oct 4, 2019 · 5 min read

A new force in the realm of social media has arisen called TikTok and brands should take notice.

For those of you that have somehow managed to miss the latest craze, TikTok is a social media video app where users create and post 15 or 60 second videos. The mobile platform, favoured largely by 16 to 24-year-olds, has taken the world by storm and continues to gain increasing popularity as users post responses to a variety of TikTok challenges.

Since its international launch in September 2017, TikTok has grown at a rapid pace. And the numbers associated with TikTok’s meteoric rise are remarkable. Having originated in China, the app is now available to download in 155 countries. Globally, the app has been installed more than 1.4 billion times. TikTok now has in excess of half a billion active users worldwide and daily video views are reported to have breached the one million mark. Clearly, this video app is a force to be reckoned with.

Possibilities for brands

TikTok’s explosive growth has caught the attention of brands and agencies alike, all eager to check out the advertising possibilities. And at TikTok’s recent marketing conference in Singapore, the company unveiled a whole host of advertising possibilities, including:

Branded takeover

Often in conjunction with sponsored hashtags, brands can also choose a branded takeover that serves users with a few seconds of branded content when they open the app.

In-app commerce

One of TikTok’s recent new features is the in-app commerce feature, which now allows brands to directly sell products to users without them having to leave the app.

In-video ads

Perhaps the most direct way to interact with audiences on TikTok, in-video ads allow brands to advertise with full-screen ads that users see when browsing video posts on the app. However, with one swipe ads are dismissed.

Sponsored hashtag

Currently one of the most popular ways for brands to advertise on TikTok, brands can pay to create their own unique challenge with a sponsored hashtag. As users generate content in response to the challenge, the hashtag gains popularity, with brand engagement and exposure also increasing. As an additional benefit, brands also gain exposure from featuring on TikTok’s ‘Discover’ page.

When AF created TikTok’s first ever branded takeover with Nike

Earlier this year, Nike reached out to us with a unique challenge; get 150,000 young Milanese women moving by using social, in a way that would cement the brand’s status as the champion of women in sport on every level.

The ask was a specific response to Italy’s significant problem with its perception of sportswomen, who are rarely seen or celebrated. And when they are, they’re stereotyped, sexualised and objectified. In Milan — a key Nike city — 55% of women between 14 and 24 don’t do any sport at all. After all, why would they, when female sporting heroes are either invisible, objectified or vilified as unfeminine?

Our research suggested that young women were doing sports, just not in the public places you’d expect. What we uncovered was that young women were active on TikTok, a safe place where they were challenging one another to perform intricate dance routines.

So, in response to Nike’s challenge, we set about creating a campaign called Stop At Nothing, the platform’s first branded takeover where we paired real Nike athletes with TikTok influencers to create sports-inspired dance moves that leveraged the power of TikTok’s engagement and user-generated content to get young women moving again.

Here are our (condensed) learnings taken from working with TikTok:

  1. Creators and social credit are TikTok’s heartbeat

TikTok is all about social credit and the key to successful campaigns on TikTok is the creators. Brands need to allow creators the freedom to create and they also need to consider how the campaign is going to allow creators to make better, more entertaining content.

2. Creativity is at the epicentre

As a platform, TikTok allows for exceptionally clever editing and creative film-making. Across the whole platform there are countless examples of creativity. The challenge for brands is how to engage people’s sense of play and creativity, while also aligning it with set goals.

3. Authenticity is paramount

We understand there’s a temptation to go wild with campaigns on a new platform. But in our experience, the look and feel of the content and ads have to feel at home and be authentic on the platform, especially when you’re posting content via creators’ own channels.

4. Involve TikTok from the start

As a platform, TikTok is constantly evolving. So by the time your idea has moved from the inception and ideation phase, there’s a strong likelihood that new features have been launched while old ones have become defunct. That’s why a working session with TikTok and an experienced creative digital agency is advisable. In our experience, TikTok is open to creating bespoke platform experiences, providing they benefit the user.

5. More moderators needed

The one area that we feel TikTok needs to improve in is an increase in moderators. The 16 to 24-year-old demographic is a young one and the platform doesn’t yet have the volume of moderators that we’d like to see. Brands need to be conscious that they are engaging with a younger audience and need to be responsible with how they talk to audiences and what they are asking them to do.

If you’re interested in finding out more about TikTok or have any questions, reach out to us at

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