TikTok held its first marketing conference in South East Asia last week, where it showcased its fledgling ad offerings to brands and agencies at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. It's pitch to them based on the value of short-form video content and access to creative talent.
Here is what marketers need to know.
The Bytedance-owned platform's monetisation strategy is built around designing a solid user experience, according to Lionel Sim, senior director of global marketing and business solutions at TikTok Ads.
The platform does this by way of a three-pronged approach: working with brands; working with creators and localising content.
Content and campaigns created in Singapore in 2019 include #Thisissingaporelah, #Mypetslife and #SGearthhour2019. #Thisissingaporelah currently has 1,775 fan-generated posts and 1,546,528 views.
Localised brand campaigns include #Killernotstupid, which was made in collaboration with local filmmaker Jack Neo, where users were encouraged to participate in a finger dance challenge to stand a chance to win a pair of passes to the gala premiere of the Neo’s movie, Killer Not Stupid.
“TikTok is the leading platform destination for short-form video apps, so a lot of what we monetize is through advertising. There are a few different formats that we propose in terms of advertising in video. One is 'hashtag challenge', the other one is 'brand takeover' and 'in-video ads',” Sim explained.
“We are refining and innovating in the ways that we present to advertisers and industries in terms of how we can effectively help them launch a campaign on vide. Also around how they can actually partner with creators to co-create content in an innovative way," he added.
"There are multiple permutations that you can launch a particular campaign.”
According to Doreen Tan, the user and content operations manager for TikTok in Singapore, a hashtag challenge is the most popular ad format.
A challenge sees creators or brands launching the competition through a video on the platform and selecting a song to accompany the video. They then challenge other users to create their own version using a specific hashtag.
For example, the United Nations recently tested a 'virtual dance petition', which encouraged them to upload videos of themselves with the hashtag #DanceForChange. The organisation enlisted the help of Afrobeat artists Sherrie Silver and Mr Eazi to push the campaign.
To date, the campaign has generated thousands of fan-generated responses which have generated more than 90m views.
“Depending on what the client need is, we have the ability to create customized stickers for brands, or even music, customized music like for Songkran Festival. So, depending on what the client needs are, we can adapt accordingly,” Tan explained.
While TikTok’s analytics and measurement offering still in the early stages of development, brands with TikTok profiles can currently measure reach and engagement. If they work with creators they can track affiliate links to measure sales.
In terms of reach and relevancy, there are a few matrixes like video views and impressions that brands can use, said Sim. However, he acknowledged that TikTok is constantly refining its analytics on the back end to help brands better track their campaigns, as well as understand and engage users.
“At the same time, we are thinking of trying to see how we can help brands understand how seasonally-driven or campaign-driven, their activations on our platform are,” added Sim.
“We want to keep on experimenting, innovating, and [we believe there is] a power in working with creators. When brands have their own trending hashtags, they can constantly see which content strategy works and which does not.”
Tan added that brands can also own their own jingle and create music for their videos or ads. She points out that on other short-form platforms, brands can only see the likes and shares, but on TikTok, they are able to see people interacting with the particular audio.
“On TikTok, once you upload your music audio, you are also able to see the number of people who actually used to film with that particular audio, how many videos have been created, how many likes and shares, and the total number of comments, you are able to track information like this,” she asserted.
TikTok is planning to introduce shoppable ads and one-click shopping globally in the future, which it is already doing in China, and testing in the US and UK.
Sim said TikTok is constantly looking at ways where to better allow brands to test e-commerce on its platform but reiterated that this will be done progressively, as TikTok is in the process of building content.
“In a way, we have not launched anything specific to e-commerce yet. I think for us what we hope to do is to really build a community of content and then, from there, to see what the features are and the values that we can provide to our users,” he explained.
“Particularly for brands, in which they want to build a better relationship and engagement with users, we see that could be one of the many ways that they could add value is through e-commerce.”
When TikTok's executives took to the stage for their presentations, they didn't address the brand safety issues the business is facing globally, or how it is taking measures to ensure brand-safe content for brands.
Earlier this year, the BBC collected “hundreds” of sexual comments posted on videos uploaded by teenagers and children. The comments were reported via TikTok's user interface and were subsequently removed from the platform. However, their authors could remain on the site.
In India, where the app is making waves with new campaigns and events, TikTok is facing calls for a ban from politicians, who accuse it of spreading fake news and sharing user data with China.
The Drum has reached out to TikTok about what changes and measures it is taking to ensure brand-safe content for advertisers.