How TikTok is a readymade platform for targeted advertising

Despite its recent brushes with the law, brands are finding TikTok hard to resist and are reaping the benefits of its Gen Z user base

e4m by Shikha Paliwal
Updated: Aug 16, 2019 10:46 AM



TikTok is what Gen Z is on. The ByteDance-owned social media app, popular for its short form videos, is a rage for its user-generated quirky song-dance routines and snack able straight to the point kind of content. In other words and strictly from a business point of view, TikTok is a readymade platform for targeted advertising.

Earlier this year at the Cannes Lions 2019 roundtable, Tik Tok content creator Anna’O’ Brien made an interesting pitch for the kind of brands that should be seen on the platform. ‘Brands that are winning and being more successful on the channel are actually people allowing people to have a clear voice and not being afraid of trying to make every single person in the world feel comfortable with a piece of content because you know what happens when you do that –‘it’s really boring,’ she said.

Perhaps that is the draw of TikTok for Gen Z, its unapologetic, be yourself, fearless kind of USP. And as it rises up the popularity charts, brands are increasingly finding themselves flocking to the app. It’s not surprising either, the vibe the app shares with the youth is too hard for brands to ignore. In their attempt to find favour with Gen Z, marketers are looking at new innovative ways to engage with them in their own language. Tiktok users on their part too are happy to engage with brands that are able to find that connect through the User Generated Content (UGC) route.
In fact, Tiktok itself had showcased its vision to Indian brands on harnessing the power of UGC at ad:tech (digital marketing advertising conference) earlier this year. The social media platform shared insights on how brands in India can engage with Generation Z. According to TikTok it was important that brands addressed the diverse advertising needs in sync with Gen Z which likes to S-I-N-C (Short-form, Influencer Driven, Native and Co-Created).

Speaking at the same event, Sachin Sharma, Director - Sales and Partnership, Bytedance India, had said, ‘User Generated Content (UGC) has become the new point of entry for first time internet users in India making it the highest data consumer in the world. As a marketer, it is vital to ensure that your brand is effectively connected to your audience, which makes it the right time for brands to start looking at platforms such as TikTok and the wide and innovative digital advertising solutions that they bring.’

Monetisation through ads is something TikTok has only recently started dabbling in. A clearly defined paid advertising model is still in the nascent phase, for now this is how brands are using TikTok:
While, influencer partnerships to create content is still one of the most popular routes for brand –user engagements. Brands can also have their own channels and upload content on it. The other modes of brand engagement or advertising routes on TikTok are:
-The Hashtag Challenge
-Brand Takeover
-In feed native video

Hashtag challenges that brands create are used to build hype around their campaigns. Take Pepsi’s #Swag step challenge as an example. As part of their ‘Har Ghoot Mein Swag’ campaign, actors Tiger Shroff and Disha Patani were roped in to kick off the #Swagstep challenge, soon it had millions of TikTok users uploading their version of the step and Pepsi’s intent to strike a chord with the young audience was a success.

Another example of a successful hashtag challenge that took place on the platform last year was when Huawei launched Honor 10 with a 22-day #1MillionAudition campaign in India. According to TikTok the hashtag challenge saw over 73K users’ participation that generated 40k UGC short videos with 640 million views, and 321 million impressions during the campaign.

Then there is the brand takeover format where typically a user will see an unskippable ad for a few seconds when they open the app. The In feed native video is another version of a sponsored ad that is slipped in between content and directs a user to the website of the brand.

For brands catering to the youth, TikTok is a must in your marketing mix believes Akshay Popawala, Co-founder and Director of Digital Communication/Strategy, Togglehead, he says, “Though the reach and acceptance of TikTok is phenomenal, the audience is a niche of Gen Z. The young viewers of TikTok won’t be interested in retirement plans or housing loans; if youth forms the core of a brand’s purchase funnel than I believe it’s time for brands to get TikToking!”

TikTok has around 120 million monthly active users in India. According to mobile market analyst Sensor Tower estimates the app has had over a billion downloads and 25 percent of that is from India. While there are no official figures available from TikTok, estimates say that majority users of the app are below 30 years of age.
Relevant audience, sizeable coverage, high stickiness. TikTok has all of these, says Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO & co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea.  “Marketers for a certain brand set have been on the lookout for a platform that gets them instant, engaged & sizeable access to millennials from non-metros. TikTok offers them that. Additionally the regional affinity breaks all the barriers that legacy social media platforms brought along with its metro-activated adoption,” he adds.

It’s acceptance in India across regions, demographics and gender is no mean feat. However, while some brands are boldly making their way into the consumer space on the social media platform, many are still circumspect given the apps’ recent brushes with the law. The company is aware of this and can be clearly seen making a proactive attempt to change perceptions.
Over the next three years TikTok plans to invest 1 bn dollars in India on technology infrastructure, local partnerships and supporting initiatives such as the Skill India Program. Their recent partnership with NGO Bhumi to launch the #CleanIndia challenge has seen the app trending for the ‘right’ reasons.

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