If you’re not showing up on TikTok as an authentic member of the community, you’re not doing it right.
To help agencies and marketers better tap into the platform’s unique culture, TikTok has partnered with IPG Mediabrands on a three-year global creator program.
The first of its kind partnership includes a global Creator Collective, with creators hand-selected by TikTok that IPG's Mediabrands clients can tap into for strategic advice, as well as quarterly intensive creator camps with bespoke curriculums.
While the partnership also includes the typical media-platform trade-offs, like discounts and first looks at new products, Mediabrands wanted to do something different that its clients couldn’t get anywhere else, said Dani Benowitz, EVP director of investment at IPG’s agency forecasting unit Magna Global.
“We wanted to bring something special to our clients,” she said. “We thought content was the way to do it because of how important it is on these platforms. How do we get our clients really immersed in this revolution?”
The first creator camp will kick off in Q2 as a two-day virtual learning session that educates brands on TikTok’s culture, product features and the language used by its audience. Brands will walk away with a portfolio they can use for an upcoming campaign, as well as a toolkit for how to use TikTok in the future.
The program will start in North America, with ambitions to scale globally in every market where Mediabrands operates, and a goal to hold camps in-person when it’s safe to do so.
“We want to keep camps bespoke and specific, so we’re very intentional about building curriculum,” said Khartoon Weiss, head of global agency and accounts at TikTok. “We will look at creators who understand all of the opportunities to bring different verticals to life and are experts in those fields.”
The program aims to give brands that are still finding their way on TikTok a better understanding of how to show up natively and latch on to emerging trends, artists and cultural moments in order to drive sales. The best way to do that is to learn from the creators themselves, Benowitz said.
“As brands start to work with these creators, it's going to have to be done organically,” she said. “It's going to be less of a paid influencer relationship.”
Looking to the future
TikTok intends to iterate on camps as the program evolves to help brands take advantage of emerging trends. For example, TikTok plans to work with IPG Mediabrands commerce agency, Reprise, as creator commerce takes off on the platform.
“You've seen TikTok clear shelves,” Weiss said. “We want to do this with brands in the IPG Mediabrands portfolio. We will lean into the elements of their business and ours that are emerging and will continue to drive importance in the marketplace.”
Benowitz also sees opportunities to get in on the ground floor with TikTok as the company partners with media companies and builds out its own original programming. “You'll see brands tap into that in a big way,” she said.
In addition to innovation, diversity, equity and inclusion will play a key role in the partnership. TikTok will select a diverse group of creators and will train brands on how to reach communities that live on the platform. After all, TikTok is the home of Gen Z, which is the most diverse generation in U.S. history.
Like most agencies, Mediabrands is making a concerted effort to be more diverse and inclusive, not just internally but also in how it spends its clients’ media dollars. The group recently hosted its first diversity, equity and inclusion upfront to help clients direct more spend to BIPOC-owned or targeted media companies.
“We recognize how important the audience is,” Benowitz said. “It's being underserved in terms of media spend. Part of what we are doing with TikTok is figuring out better ways to speak to them.”
TikTok hits the mainstream
The IPG Mediabrands deal is the third major partnership TikTok has inked with a large agency group in the past year, a sign of maturity for the growing platform. TikTok signed its first U.S. agency partnership with Horizon Media in November, followed by a broad deal with WPP focused on brand safety and ad innovation in February.
“The fact we can develop this kind of initiative and globally scale it to meet the needs of a network like IPG Mediabrands marks a new milestone for TikTok,” Weiss said.
For Mediabrands, which launched a full-fledged content studio in November and has a few Cannes Lions under its belt, starting the partnership with a focus on content made sense.
“Media agencies don't just buy and plan media anymore,” Benowitz said. “The whole experience is what we're all about.”
Aside from Magna and Reprise, Mediabrands’ other constituent agencies include UM, Initiative, Orion and Rapport.
A few factors played into formalizing the partnership now. Media coverage and speculation around TikTok’s control by the Chinese government that was rampant in the fall has mostly subsided. TikTok also scored well on Mediabrands Media Responsibility Index, which grades platforms’ adherence to the group’s Media Responsibility Principles.
But FOMO, or fear of missing out, played a part as well, Benowitz said.
“As they've become more mainstream, and they have so quickly, and we see other [agencies] doing it, we start to say, ‘What can I do for my brands and how can they get involved?’” she said.