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Advertising with Joy and Creativity: Branding in the TikTok World

May 5, 2020

After many weeks of being sequestered at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, chances are, you’ve found comic relief or inspiration from some of the wildly creative short videos on TikTok, the world’s fastest-growing social media platform [since early 2018]. But did you know TikTok is also the best platform to reach Gen Z and millennial consumers, which account for 80% of global spending? 

GGV recently hosted a Masterclass webinar with three executives from TikTok -- Jonathan Koptiko, US Agency Development, Amol Shah, Revenue Partnerships and Matty Lin, Global Business Solutions -- to delve into the many ways advertisers can connect with TikTok’s hyper-engaged and passionate user base. As an early investor in, acquired by Bytedance, TikTok’s parent company, GGV is excited to see the advertising innovations TikTok has pioneered to bring brands seamlessly into its creative, zany, addicting universe. For brands looking to take the TikTok advertising plunge, as well as those that already have but would like to up their game, here are three key takeaways from the Masterclass.

1. Start with Joy—not a Sales Pitch

TikTok stands apart from other social networks because it “inspires joy and creativity across the whole community,” said Kopitko. When brands approach advertising on the platform, they won’t be successful unless they embrace this ethos, creating content that inspires joy and creativity. TikTok videos are funny, strange, silly, musical, and, above all, highly creative. For advertisers, TikTok is a chance to do what they do best, which is create inspiring content that makes users fall in love with their brand stories. From upstart brands to big businesses, the goal is the same: create a TikTok video you’d actually want to watch and share yourself. Walmart’s recent TikTok campaign dubbed #SavingsShuffle urged customers to show off their dance moves when they got a great deal at Walmart. Walmart co-created a TikTok video with comedy influencer Adam Waheed doing the #SavingsShuffle and promoted it via a TikTok ad placement, racking up millions of views.

2. Know Your Advertising Options

TikTok offers five main advertising options that brands can use on their own or in different combinations. 

  • Top View allows a brand to purchase the top spot on the main TikTok page when users open the app. You could buy this spot on Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day, or any other day that you choose. Your content is shown to the entire audience as the first piece of content they see that day. The ads can be up to 60 seconds long, but 15 seconds usually works best. This is one of the best ways to create a totally immersive brand experience on TikTok.
  • #Hashtag Challenge is one of TikTok’s most popular campaigns because it engages audiences to play along with fun games, dances, or tricks. The Oreo Challenge is one of the most well-known brand challenges on TikTok, starting there but becoming widespread across the internet. Consumers were urged to place an Oreo on their head and try to make the cookie land in their mouth without using their hands, while, of course, filming the challenge for TikTok.
  • Brand Takeover is a 3-5-second ad—a video, GIF, or still image—that’s displayed to users when they first open TikTok. The ad can be linked to a brand’s landing page or to a Hashtag Challenge within TikTok. Only one brand can take over one category each day. This takeover is a great way to get maximum exposure in an instant.
  • In-Feed Video is the most “natural” ad environment as branded content gets served into users’ feeds. As they swipe, they see your ad alongside all other content created by amateurs, influencers, and celebrities. TikTok can of course layer on targeting to specific audiences and it’s charged on a CPM basis. This is the type of ad that most brands start with on TikTok.
  • Branded Effects allows advertisers to create stickers, augmented reality, or overlays that go over videos that TikTok users have created. This is a way to put a fun brand element on top of amateur videos and can of course be targeted precisely to specific content and audiences.

Branding is most impactful when you combine elements, such as a hashtag challenge with branded effects on it, then promoted via Top View, said Amol Shah, performance sales team lead at TikTok. 

3. It’s About the Music

TikTok started out as the place to share music and dance videos and those elements are core to its overall ethos and experience. When you open TikTok, you dive right into content and the sound is always on. Whereas on other platforms, brands have learned to create ads that have no sound so as not to interrupt the user’s experience, on TikTok, sound is the experience, said Kopitko. Even though TikTok now has content from dancers, musicians, singers, comedians, doctors, chefs, students, lawyers, parents, scientists—every kind of person doing every kind of amazing thing—all the videos have a sound element. On the Sound Page, users can search for a video based on the song or sound it includes, finding all the other videos that also include it or have modified it. “So many music hits have emerged from the platform,” said Shah. “And for some brands, there is an opportunity to be a part of that,” said Shah.

One of the best examples of using music for inspired branding is the e.l.f. Cosmetics Eyes, Lips, Face campaign. The brand created a catchy 15-second song targeting Gen Z consumers around a hashtag challenge promoting the eyes lips face = ELF association. The company used multiple units, including brand takeovers featuring the music, to drive awareness to the entire TikTok user base, and the challenge took off. Celebrities such as Ellen jumped on board. The song became so popular that e.l.f. had to go back to the creator to commission an actual full-length two-minute song, which they put on Spotify where it garnered over 16M streams. It was one of the most successful campaigns e.l.f. has ever run, driving a huge surge in sales and brand recognition.

Social video is rapidly becoming the most popular way for brands to connect with new audiences around the world. Surprise us with the next challenge!

This masterclass was a part of GGV Capital’s Evolving E series. Evolving E is an ecommerce tech community that began in 2016 as a summit in New York for the top entrepreneurs and executives in the ecommerce, retail and consumer goods sectors. Today it has expanded to include online and offline dinner series, masterclasses, and gatherings with an ecommerce community from around the world.