Luke Janich
Mar 12, 2021

The challenges of TikTok (and why it's worth your attention as an advertiser)

TikTok offers numerous advertising options, so it's no surprise some brands are unsure how to proceed. But marketers should get familiar with the platform's potential by looking at some of the best TikTok campaigns to date, writes the CEO of digital agency Red2.

Source: Dettol Sri Lanka YouTube
Source: Dettol Sri Lanka YouTube

The pandemic has affected businesses worldwide, but one of the most surprising success stories has to be the rise of TikTok, the short-form video app. The platform is now stealing viewer attention away from Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat. And this has left many marketers scrambling to catch up.

With 500 million monthly users and counting, TikTok is enjoying global popularity, especially amongst younger demographics, and you can see why. Short-form video content is the perfect outlet for a world spending more time indoors and apart. In many ways, TikTok takes one of Snapchat and Facebook/Instagram's best features and adds some extra creative possibilities for users—and brands.

Yet, many marketers don't know where to start on this rapidly-evolving platform. A problem compounded by TikTok's seemingly experimental approach to advertising.

TikTok offers numerous options to brands, from sponsored hashtag challenges and brand takeovers to more familiar in-feed video ads and influencer campaigns. So many choices, in fact, that perhaps TikTok is waiting to see what works. Plus, with TikTok’s partnership with Shopify, it is adding even more options to the mix, including customizable “link ads” and a more concentrated ecommerce rollout.

With all of this in mind, here are some great campaigns from the past year. Campaigns that show why TikTok should be part of every marketer's arsenal, and why I believe the platform is here to stay.

The home of challenges

One of the hallmarks of TikTok is how interactive the content is. Nowhere more so than through hashtag challenges, where users challenge each other to replicate or improve upon a lip-sync or dance routine.

Last year, L'Oreal created a fresh twist on the genre with its topical #LetsFaceIt challenge. Here, the brand encouraged users to share videos of themselves wearing face masks in ever more creative ways, as well as how to combine a mask with eye-catching makeup.

For such a simple idea, it had a massive impact. Throughout the pandemic, the branded videos and their responses received over 17 billion views. The campaign struck a chord around the world, celebrating beauty in a new way while destigmatizing mask wearing for an entire generation. Not bad for what started as a small social campaign.

Closer to home, Dettol launched its first TikTok campaign, the #HandWashChallenge. The campaign aimed to teach people the proper way to wash their hands in a lighthearted and engaging way, through choreography, music, and interaction. The campaign was supported by local influencers and racked up an impressive billion of views that started in India and extending to nine other markets across Asia and North Africa.

Other brands have also got in on the action. For example VinFast, the e-scooter brand in Vietnam, launched its two newest scooters on the platform through the #Phieucungxechat hashtag challenge, which resulted in over 200 million views and 101,000 submissions.

What makes each of these campaigns great is that they're based upon existing digital behaviors on TikTok. And what makes the platform so exciting is that hashtag challenges are just one of these new behaviors.

Rather than merely using the same video content in a different format, the best brands are already treating TikTok as its own channel, authentically tapping into these behaviors. These are ambitious brands that understand how to use this new medium to get a headstart on their competition.

While, as always, there’s a risk some brands will be left behind, I’m excited by the potential of TikTok. It’s quickly becoming a powerful channel in its own right. Especially when combined with a brand’s core strategy and real behavior insights, as these early campaigns show us.


Luke Janich is CEO of digital agency Red².

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