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How TikTok is Changing the Ad Game

New dance moves, here we come!

You’ve seen them, we’ve all seen them. They make us laugh, teach us how to properly cook a steak, provide us with renter-friendly décor hacks, show us the next best destination for our bucket list, and play on repeat the newest trends in music—with coordinated dances to boot!

The “them” I am referring to, of course, are videos on TikTok, more affectionately known simply as “TikToks.” Merged with the popular Musical.ly app launched in 2018, by 2020, TikTok was the social media juggernaut that could give us our quick-fix entertainment (even if that quick 60-second video turns into 45 minutes of mindless scrolling).

TikTok first became popular with Gen Z but has since spread quickly to all generations. Having generated an estimated $4.6 billion in revenue in 2021 and expected to reach 1.5 billion users by the end of 2022, TikTok is here to stay (and play).

And the point is?

With a new social platform comes a new platform on which to advertise. But the ads we place on TikTok are very different than how we’ve traditionally approached social advertising (looking at you, Facebook). There isn’t a sidebar, a pop-up, a link to click, or even a sound to mute. Instead, ads on TikTok are tailor-made, reflecting the style of content produced by users and fully integrated into the user’s experience on the app.

One of TikTok’s most significant features is the “For You” page, which serves up content based on your behaviors in the app. Remember those coordinated dancing videos or the cooking videos mentioned previously? As you watch, like, and comment, TikTok considers those behaviors and curates similar content for you. This algorithm also acts as a funnel for ads that match your interests. For example (from personal experience), if you like gardening videos, just keep scrolling and—surprise! —you’ll see an ad for the newest state-of-the-art gardening hose.

As consumers in the Internet age, we’re familiar with ads following algorithms or cookies that track your browser activity and engagement patterns, but what TikTok advertisements deliver for companies is a diverse audience through an ingenious interlacing of ads that feel just like the content being consumed, not interrupting the user experience, but instead opening the door to new interactions. In other words: the customer finds your business, not the other way around. 

Not only are we seeing this benefit the big-name brands, but small, local, and independently owned companies can compete for customers’ attention as well. TikTok is the space where businesses can show how they relate to the customers they serve, demonstrate product usage in a fun and engaging way, maximize influencer power, and explore new and creative ways to capture the fleeting attention of the modern audience.

Speaking of attention span… are you still with me?

There’s another vital role that TikTok plays in changing the ad game. TikTok has quite literally altered the consumer’s attention span. According to the scientific experts on Google, and the more easily verifiable Technical University of Denmark, constant streams of information are narrowing our collective attention span, making overwhelming collections of information to blame for our brain’s desire to choose content that speaks to its piqued interest or passing novelty. 

Is this a greater societal issue that should cause us to drop our phones and seek interaction with the natural world? Quite possibly. But we also know that social media is here to stay, and as long as there is a medium that offers ways to express your brand and engage your audience creatively, we can and should embrace it. As a team of marketers, we see this as a unique opportunity to tailor our ads to match the behavior of the consumer; we need to do it creatively, relationally, and in under 60 seconds.

Stop! You’ve been scrolling for way too long!

If you’ve made it this far and haven’t clicked away to watch cat videos, you’ve made it to the conclusion. Nice work! That conclusion is as follows: video reels are a marketer’s playground. We can create TikTok and Instagram Reel (TikTok’s main competitor) ads to more naturally engage with our audiences than ever before, creating an online presence for businesses unlike any previously developed. The possibilities are endless, especially for small companies to engage and inform, whether paid or unpaid, to reach their target audience. Just keep it short, sweet, and preferably, funny.