How TikTok is creating new ad formats

Venkata Susmita Biswas
The impact of hashtag challenge can be seen from how brands are going beyond engagement and driving push-to-pull strategies.

After facing a brief ban in 2019 over concerns of peddling obscene content, TikTok is becoming a go-to platform for advertisers wanting to reach the interiors of India. The short-format video creation app, which has attracted a number of first-time internet users, is stepping up its efforts to rake in advertiser money. Sameer Singh talks to Venkata Susmita Biswas about developing newer ad formats and creating a safe environment for advertisers.

Despite having other ad formats, why is TikTok’s hashtag challenge the most used engagement tool by brands?

The hashtag challenge is an extension of user-generated content (UGC), where brands can engage with TikTok's users, triggering high-quality content generation and finding engaging ways to connect with audiences. This makes the hashtag challenge the most popular solution.

The impact of hashtag challenge can be seen from how brands are going beyond engagement and driving push-to-pull strategies. Verticals like FMCG, e-commerce and auto have all leveraged the hashtag challenge for their campaigns, driving value and impact. We have worked with a number of brands including Pepsi, Lay's, Clean & Clear, Puma and Hopscotch on multiple hashtag challenges.

We do have other solutions like brand takeovers, in-feed native videos and brand lens.

It looks like very few brands are using the in-feed and brand takeover ad solutions…

TikTok’s diverse user base translates into establishing a brand connect with the audience which was earlier relatively undiscovered and untapped. In a complex market like India, we allow brands to engage with users even in the deepest pockets of the country. We also work closely with brands on campaigns to understand what works for their audiences and collaborate to give an impetus to their campaigns. With our highly engaged user base, we will become a key platform for consumer-oriented businesses to create brand awareness.

Ad formats like in-feed video, in particular, need advertisers to have faith in the platform's brand safety measures. Post the ban, what processes have you put in place towards this?

TikTok now has a dedicated moderation team with expertise on content management and local culture relevance to provide a quality environment for advertisers and partners on our platform. We also offer both in-app tools and educational content to our users and brands. We have a community and ad policy guidelines that we update continuously.

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Online brand safety is a shared responsibility. We launched a consumer awareness campaign, #WaitASecToReflect, meant to inspire users to pause and think about their online conduct. Our goal was to sensitise India's growing digital population about safe and responsible use of user-generated content platforms.

Do you think 100% brand safety is impossible to achieve on a user-generated content platform like yours?

Maintaining a safe and positive in-app environment is our utmost priority. Ensuring safety on the platform is an ongoing process, and we are dedicated to making the digital lives of users an entertaining experience.

TikTok is said to primarily have non-metro users. Has it been challenging to get a variety of brands to advertise on the platform?

It is a myth that TikTok has only non-metro users. TikTok brings great sync and parallels between the upwardly mobile middle India with the growth of digital. The platform's diverse demography is attracting brands from different verticals, from premium fashion brands like Label Ritu Kumar and Puma, to pop-culture brands like Pepsi, and FMCG brands like Moov.

Is it a bother that users cross-post content created using TikTok on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube?

One of TikTok’s unique features is cross-platform sharing. We enable our users to create original and creative content on the platform and further share it on other social media platforms. In fact, the cross-posting feature further catapults the reach of the content across social media platforms, facilitating a wider reach for the creators.

How are you helping the creator community monetise the platform?

UGC has become the new point of entry for first time internet users in India. To help the creator community, we hold offline meet-and-greet events to educate them about the features available on the app. In 2019, we held the Creator's Lab 2019 event in Mumbai. Over 500 creators from across the country attended it.

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