As the lines continue to be blurred between established entertainers and your friendly neighbourhood content creators, the entertainment landscape as we know it is changing. With the development and widespread adoption of cutting edge technologies, the new age of entertainment is going to offer more opportunities to creators, brands, and viewers alike to discover — and in some cases, define — the cultural conversation.
There is perhaps no brand that better embodies the zeitgeist than TikTok. At the 2022 edition of Campaign360, the platform’s head of global agency, Karl Cluck, took to the stage to share his thoughts on the future of entertainment, the way that technology is “supercharging creative possibilities,” and how brands can harness the shoppertainment phenomenon for growth. Below are some of the key takeaways.
The democratisation of the entertainment industry
Casting an eye over the history of media itself, Cluck pointed out that while the transition from printing presses and physical distribution to broadcast media made the consumption of media more accessible, it wasn’t until the advent of the internet that ordinary people had the power to create content on their own. He mused that content creation, which started with simple text-heavy formats like blogs, has evolved alongside tech at an unprecedented pace and turned every smartphone user into a creator.
“On the phone in my pocket, I can shoot a video, I can add effects, I can add audio and music, I can distribute my video to potentially millions of viewers. The ability to create entertainment content is now as accessible for most people as the ability to consume content. And this has unleashed the creative potential of literally millions and millions of people around the world to tell their stories, to share their talent, and in some cases, become TikTok famous.”
Illustrating the idea that anyone, anywhere, could find an audience on the platform, Cluck told the story of Khaby Lame, one of TikTok’s most recognisable comedic personalities. Lame, who lost his factory job in Northern Italy during the early days of the pandemic, decided “probably to the disappointment of his parents” to shoot and post funny reaction videos on his smartphone instead of finding a new job. These simple, often dialogue-free videos “transcended geographies and languages” and succeeded in cementing Lame as one of the most followed content creators in the world, with 135 million followers just on TikTok.
But he’s not alone. Content creators spanning countless niches and genres are being discovered on TikTok every day, contributing to a thriving entertainment ecosystem. Citing a study from Influencer Marketing Hub
, Cluck stated, “More than 50 million people in the world now consider themselves to be creators across all platforms. And this is creating an estimated total of our creator economy market to be about $104 billion in 2021, on par with the growth trajectory of the gig economy.”
These days, there are “new ways to monetise happening all the time,” Cluck said. “They could be things like product placement, tipping, gifted ad revenue share, branded merchandise, paid shout-outs, or live or virtual events.”
Something #ForYou, and you, and you
With online audiences’ desire for authenticity and diversity, there really is something out there for everybody. To help connect consumers with creators whose content will resonate with them (and vice versa), curation such as TikTok’s #ForYou feed is the key. Increasingly, internet users are moving away from searchability — where they plug a keyword into a search bar — and towards discoverability, where recommendations tailored towards their interests offer both inspiration and entertainment.
That ability to connect people with specific passions and interests with each other is one of the main drivers for the rapid-paced trend culture in today’s online landscape. Though “a lot of people associate TikTok with dancing,” Cluck explains that “there’s content around an almost limitless number of passion areas.”
Using the platform’s popular #BookTok hashtag as an example, Cluck shared that the BookTok community’s videos of book reviews and author profiles had garnered over 46 billion views. “On TikTok, diverse audiences drive diverse content across every conceivable niche and genre.”
Another powerful example is the musical theatre duo Barlow & Bear, who created and workshopped an unofficial Bridgerton musical live on TikTok to theatre-loving audiences, even using the platform’s built-in duet function to audition other actors and crew members for their theoretical show. Though they produced the music in their bedrooms and without the support of a record label, the pair’s efforts culminated in a Grammy win for best musical theatre album, for which they beat out Andrew Lloyd Webber, among others.
Diversity on TikTok doesn’t only apply to interests or geographical location, but age, too. While he acknowledged that the platform’s “heritage is really in Gen Z,” Cluck observed that its user base is starting to resemble the general population more and more, with the fastest-growing demographic globally being users over 25.
Virtual trends, IRL consequences
As the runaway success of Lame, Barlow & Bear, and others may suggest, being “TikTok famous” doesn’t limit one’s success to the platform itself. Cluck emphasised that “what happens on TikTok does not stay on TikTok.” Calling back to one of the most prominent TikTok trends last year — in which thousands of users posted their attempts at making a baked feta pasta recipe — Cluck noted wryly that the craze caused a global shortage of feta cheese, “on top of everything else that happened in 2021.”
But online content isn’t just about inspiring offline or off-platform sales. Increasingly, more and more transactions are happening within apps; now is the time for brands to trial shopping experiences that can take place seamlessly within online platforms. Cluck highlighted TikTok users’ increasing appetite for joyful and engaging shopping experiences, which is resulting in more and more stages of the purchase funnel taking place in-app, “whether it’s discovering new brands through their favourite creators, through livestream events, or just shopping on the app.”
“Shopping isn’t just about buying stuff anymore. It’s really an extension of the entertainment experience.” According to the TikTok Marketing Science Global Retail Path to Purchase study from 2021, “53% of users think branded content should be fun and entertaining,” said Cluck, calling shoppertainment “not just the future of entertainment, but the future of commerce.”
“This is changing the purchase funnel into something more like an infinity loop. You discover something when you’re being entertained. You buy it, share your experience, more people see that, and before you know it, we have a global shortage of feta cheese,” Cluck said. “And this dynamic is really driving some of the brand crazes that we’re seeing on TikTok.”
In closing, Cluck mused on what the future of entertainment will look like. “For me, it’s just more. It’s more opportunities for anyone to become a creator. It’s more tools and forums and spaces to be creative, to create two-way dialogues between creators and audiences, and more ways for brands to discover creators — or become creators themselves — engage consumers, and drive commerce success."