Unlock the force of TikTok ads

Media & Advertising, Social Media

For years now, smartphones (essentially an extension of our bodies) have allowed us to capture the world and record high quality videos. However, video has only just recently stolen the show on social media, particularly on TikTok. 

Born as Douyin in 2016, TikTok has been challenging western tech giants since it entered the international market back in 2017 through its matrix company ByteDance. 

The Chinese platform currently has 689 million monthly users worldwide, and is estimated to have been downloaded between 850 million and 987 million times. In fact, it recently overtook Facebook as the most downloaded app of 2020, a ranking whose top 5 has always been occupied by Facebook-owned apps since the survey began in 2018. 

But why does everyone want to join TikTok?  The company ‘s mission may have something to do with its success. In their own words, TikTok’s mission is “to inspire creativity and bring joy.”

In fact, TikTok’s point of difference is its focus on user entertainment. Attributes such as information gathering or lifestyle representation (typical of Twitter and Instagram) are secondary. 

Moreover, the platform is incredibly easy to use, which, combined with its enormous potential in terms of portable technology for recording and editing content in the app itself, could turn any user into a content creator. Thus, the platform has managed to attract millions of users (both professional and amateur), creating an enormous community that consumes content on a daily basis. 

In addition, the app has managed to become a meeting point for Generation Z (although it already attracts a significant amount of millennials as well). In fact, in 2020 62% of American active users were between the ages of 10 and 29. On average, they spent 52 minutes a day consuming and creating content on TikTok. 

In this context, with such usage statistics and a huge audience that is expected to keep growing exponentially worldwide, TikTok’s entrance in the sponsored content market was to be expected.  TikTok For Business kicked off in June 2020, offering brands the chance to connect with younger audiences using their own codes and languages. 

However, TikTok is not a regular social network, like the ones we have been using since the 2000s. It has come to transform the way we consume and create content on social media, which is why its content promotion system has specific and differentiating characteristics. Read on to discover them all!

Define your objectives

In this respect, objective distribution within Tik Tok works in much the same way as on other platforms, with three main groups into which we can divide ad optimisation:

  • Awareness, in order to make as many users as possible aware of the brand. Awareness campaigns’ main KPI is reach. 
  • Consideration, aimed at increasing brand reputation through targeted interactions. It is divided into three possible ad optimisations:
    • Traffic
    • App download and setup
    • Video display
  • Conversions, the commercial objective par excellence, which seeks to encourage users to take a specific action on a given website (registrations, purchases, bookings, etc.)

TikTok ads’ formats: the icing on the cake

TikTok is a platform with very specific codes —it moves away from the video or photo model and includes filters, voice-overs, live edited videos, duets, etc.— always based on entertainment. In this line, and closely linked to the characteristics of its main target audience, Generation Z, users show a much more real version of themselves than they might show on Instagram.

The formats available to promote content on the platform are aligned with such codes, and therefore need to be taken into account when considering campaign dynamics. As with any activation, it is crucial to choose a format that matches the pre-established objective. The formats currently available on TikTok are as follows:

Brand takeover

This is the ideal format to achieve conversion goals. It is based on a photo or video ad that impacts users in full screen when they open the app, generating a great visual impact and recall effect on users. They include a link to an internal or external URL and are exclusive, meaning users can only be impacted by this type of ads once a day. 

Top view ads

Very similar to the brand takeover format, this format is primarily used to meet conversion objectives too.  The strategy, as with brand takeovers, is for users to view the ad without any distractions, thus getting 100% of their attention.

TikTok Ads


However, unlike Brand Takeover ads, this format impacts users 3 seconds after opening the app. This implies that top view ads impact users before they are saturated with other messages (both paid and organic), so the probability of them not skipping the ad is higher. 

Hashtag Challenge

The Hashtag Challenge: the crown jewel and perhaps TikTok’s most unique format as it uses the platform’s own original and characteristic codes. 

The dynamics of the campaign are as follows: brands publish a video with a dedicated hashtag, and challenge users to upload a post performing a specific challenge (such as a dance or a particular activity). When users click on the sponsored hashtag (either because the ad hits them or because they see the post of another user who has already joined the challenge), they are redirected to a customised landing page containing the brand’s logo, a link to their website, a brief description of the challenge and popular videos using the hashtag. And users don’t even need to leave the app!

The power of this format lies in how it leverages on the virality of the challenge, making user-generated content (UGC) its own. When they carry out the action suggested by the brand, they also share the challenge’s hashtag, thus spreading the brands’ messages. 

This is a truly revolutionary approach, as users wouldn’t normally share an ad redirecting to a commercial landing page. Conversely, they do use a challenge’s hashtag, which, if the content is attractive and relevant enough, can multiply the brands’ reach through True Engagement. Therefore, branded actions involving hashtag challenges are often promoted with the aim of boosting consideration. 

However, challenges are a TikTok-exclusive format which the platform markets as a premium product, offering 3-6 day packages with media placements, creative advice and a simple setup and therefore increasing the price of these kinds of activations. 

Branded filters and effects

Brand-sponsored effects and filters are certainly not new, and the way they work on TikTok is similar to other platforms such as Snapchat or Instagram.  Brands can boost consideration among users by offering them customised stickers, filters and special effects with which to create their own content without leaving the app. In short, it is about delivering tools to enrich the creative and fun visual experience on which the platform is based.

In-Feed Ads

The most popular format, especially when it comes to boosting brand awareness. In-feed ads appear on TikTok’s ‘For you’ page together with organic content, can last up to 60 seconds and are automatically reproduced.  These ads are similar to the classic Paid Post Ads on other platforms, as users can interact with them by liking, commenting, sharing, following, etc. The main downside, however, is they can be easily skipped and ignored. 

A specific target audience

TikTok currently allows for audience targeting using traditional characteristics such as demographics, interests, behaviours or devices. Moreover, in order to reach new audiences who are similar to specific databases or other already-identified target groups, it is also possible to create Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences, just like in Facebook’s Ads Manager.  

A considerable investment

And what about the costs of advertising on TikTok? The truth is that, compared to other established social networks, TikTok is positioned as a high-cost platform.

As mentioned before, beyond the simple In-Feed ads, the platform sells its advertising services through premium packages that include advertising advice from the commercial team. This implies an additional cost for the brand, but also provides support when it comes to exploring and understanding the codes of a new social network that is somewhat distant from the day-to-day life of large companies.

Another reason for the high cost of Tik Tok campaigns is that the platform is currently under-exploited by advertisers. Moreover, TikTok ads can impact Generation Z, a very specific target that other social media platforms are starting to lose. 


As such, the minimum budget for each campaign is €500, and the minimum budget for each ad group is €50 (nowhere near what Instagram or Facebook offer). The total price of a complex activation such as a challenge with specific content and influencers can be close to €300,000.

Is it worth it? The potential of Tik Tok ads

When it comes to promoted content, TikTok offers endless possibilities for brands. Undoubtedly, formats are its main point of difference, as they have been developed with the aim of generating an immersive experience and adapt to the kind of content that users like to see on the platform. 

Besides, it is not yet a saturated channel, and offers the possibility to engage with younger audiences.  Therefore, TikTok is an interesting investment opportunity for brands seeking to connect with that specific target. 

However, when building an omni-channel media plan, one must consider the high production and promotion costs of running a TikTok campaign and, most importantly, assess whether that investment would offer a differential value for the brand, or whether the same objectives could be achieved through more profitable means. 

The importance of content creation shouldn’t be underestimated, as for brand activations to be successful the digital assets developed will need to comply with the platform’s codes. 

Considering the above, video will continue to be king for quite some time and, with younger audiences seeking increasingly immersive online experiences, TikTok will soon become a strategic asset to any marketing strategy.  At Good Rebels, we will make sure to stay ahead of the game to help yours succeed. 

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