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Brand Strategy TikTok Future of Media

TikTok cashes in on contextual advertising


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

May 4, 2022 | 5 min read

TikTok today announced it is launching TikTok Pulse, a new contextual tool that enables brands to advertise alongside the top-performing content in the "For You" feed. The social network claims that the new product will help boost brand exposure and help advertisers drive engagement.

TikTok logo mixed in with dollar signs

TikTok is trying to solve its advertising problem / Adobe Stock

Here’s what you need to know about TikTok Pulse and why it matters:

What happened

● TikTok today announced that it’s debuting TikTok Pulse, which it said in a blog post is “designed to give brands the tools and controls to be a part of these everyday moments and trends that engage the community.”

● Brands can use TikTok Pulse to appear alongside the top 4% most engaging videos on the platform. Pulse includes 12 unique content categories to help brands advertise next to verticals that are likely to resonate with their target audiences — from beauty and fashion to gaming, cooking and automotive. With the ability to select which Pulse categories to advertise on, brands are able to create relevance and target specific audiences in a privacy-safe way.

TikTok Pulse gif

● TikTok Pulse includes brand safety and suitability tools, including a proprietary inventory filter, to ensure that ads aren’t at risk of appearing next to unsavory or inappropriate content. Pulse also provides post-campaign measurement tools like third-party brand suitability and viewability verification — helping advertisers feel confident that their content was delivered in a desirable environment and seen by a real user. TikTok’s measurement offerings also ensure that brands are well-equipped to determine the impact of their marketing efforts.

● As part of the new TikTok Pulse program, the platform is also investing more in its creators. The company plans to launch its first advertising revenue share program with creators, public futures and media publishers on the platform. Creators and publishers with 100,000 or more followers will be eligible to join the initial rollout. “We're focused on developing monetization solutions and available markets so that creators feel valued and rewarded on TikTok,” said the brand in the blog post published today. “From the very beginning, we've committed to working with our community to bring new features that enrich the TikTok experience, and we look forward to continuing that journey with TikTok Pulse.”

Why it matters

● With third-party cookies on their last leg, advertisers require new, privacy-respecting, non-tracking-based approaches to reaching target audiences and analyzing the effects of their campaigns. Contextual advertising, which employs automated tools to evaluate the contents of a given media environment and places ads accordingly, is gaining steam as a viable alternative to cookie-based advertising. Per eMarketer data from late 2021, 31% of brands plan to increase their spending on contextual ads in 2022.

● TikTok claims that Pulse really delivers on its promise; it tapped a third-party research firm, Material, to conduct a study on the tool’s effectiveness. Results indicate that, on average, Pulse led to 8% higher brand favorability and made a brand 10% more likely to be remembered. It also found a 22% lift in purchasing intent among gen Z audiences.

● Though it has rapidly become one of the most popular social media platforms ever created, TikTok has struggled to monetize via advertising. TikTok’s creator-centric content model has meant that, since its inception, users have put out videos that essentially function as endorsements or commercials — and the platform itself hasn’t been able to cash in. There have also been limited ad formats and advertising tools available to brands on the platform. A Kantar survey published last fall found that marketers see TikTok as the least trustworthy major social media platform, ranking behind Instagram, YouTube, Google and Facebook. Recognizing its shortcomings, the platform is now making a push to entice brands to spend more ad dollars on the app.

● With a billion monthly active users worldwide, TikTok offers a valuable opportunity for brands to connect with target audiences — and in ways that respect their data privacy.

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