Earlier this week, Google and TikTok hinted at a surprise search partnership when news broke that the two platforms were exploring a move that would see Google’s search prompts integrated into TikTok’s search stream.
With trials of the custom integration currently underway, the potential industry impact of these two giants joining forces is unending, representing a myriad of opportunities for brands. But, as always, opportunities don’t come without risks.
To unpack the potential implications of this rumoured collaboration, PMW spoke to the experts.
“The rewards could be as vast as the digital landscape itself”
Jennifer Zhang, Senior Client Growth Manager at Nativex believes the partnership presents an exciting opportunity for performance marketers, largely because of its influence on data and potential to facilitate access to new audiences and insights.
She said: “This partnership represents an exciting evolution. It promises access to a younger, more discerning audience and a wealth of cross-platform, data-driven insights. The allure of this collaboration is undeniable, but it’s imperative to remain vigilant about potential risks.”
Zhang cited privacy concerns, competition for ad space, algorithmic shifts and integrated marketing as potential dangers for brands planning to engage with the platforms post-partnership.
Despite the risks however, she concluded: ”With careful navigation, the rewards could be as vast as the digital landscape itself. In the fast-paced world of performance marketing, being prepared for change is the key to success. The TikTok-Google partnership, if realised, will be a change worth embracing and harnessing for the benefit of brands, marketers and the digital advertising industry at large.”
“It's a win-win scenario for TikTok and Google”
Danny Molyneux, Chief Strategy Officer at Claxon thinks the potential partnership represents a strategic move from both platforms as they respond to a rapidly evolving digital landscape.
He said: “TikTok's exploration of integrating Google search prompts aligns with its commitment to enhancing user experience and expanding its role beyond just a social media platform. By incorporating Google's search capabilities, TikTok can provide users with more comprehensive and contextually relevant information.
“For Google, this partnership addresses the growing trend of users turning to social media platforms like TikTok for discovery rather than traditional search engines. I think it's a smart move to maintain relevance among younger audiences and diversify their discovery options.”
As for the brand-side impact, Molyneux largely mirrored Zhang’s sentiment. Making reference to the potential for data sharing, he said it “could lead to improved discovery tools” but also the need to ensure “user privacy and data security remain a top priority”.
He explained: “This partnership reflects the adaptability and innovation required for tech giants to stay at the forefront of the industry. It's a win-win scenario for TikTok and Google as they explore new avenues of collaboration in the pursuit of better serving their users and staying competitive.”
Alban Villani, CEO EMEA at CitrusAd, added: “Although the TikTok-Google announcement is not about new ad units, this partnership shows an acceleration of the interest in Retail Media globally. The next logical step we see is an increase in shopper touchpoints across the industry, which will require advanced identity-management solutions.”
“It’s all about negating each other's growth or trying to access each other's data”
Murmur Group’s Head of Media, Taz Papoulias, posited that the reasons for the collaboration may be more sinister than many realise and not so much about expansion as it is mitigation.
He said: “There are no friends or enemies in business – just interests. So it makes you wonder why TikTok, which is used for discovery and part of pre-purchase behaviour, would partner with Google which is predominantly bottom-funnel and action driven.
“To me it’s all about negating each other's growth or trying to access each other's data. TikTok would not want users to ‘leave’ the app and they have stated that this collaboration is a third party integration trial – not an ad unit.
“Given that 90% of all users online hit Google during their purchase path, it's clear this is about TikTok experimenting with user habits to see how they can cater better to the user experience and continue their exponential growth outside of Gen Z.
“If this partnership does happen, which I doubt, it would mean ad dollars targeting Gen Z will move from Google to TikTok even more so than currently.”
Overall, it seems that should this partnership go ahead and become a reality, brands should follow the old adage and ‘proceed with caution’. It would be a waste to miss out on the collaborations benefits, but leveraging the opportunity shouldn’t come at a cost to brand building and reputation.