Check out the latest platform to woo brands: TikTok, the fastest growing platform among young adults. We have created this advertising guide to help keep track of what type of ads you can and can not run on the platform. Let’s get into discussing what TikTok Advertising has in store for us all. 

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Musical.ly to TikTok
  3. TikTok Pixel
  4. TikTok Demographics
  5. TikTok Ad Targeting
  6. TikTok Formats
  7. TikTok Ad Specs
  8. TikTok Creative Best Practices
  9. Resouurces

Introduction

Tiktok Interface
Screenshots taken of TikTok, 2020

TikTok is the fastest growing global destination for short-form mobile videos. We know that TikTok has been running ads since end of 2018, and currently there is a self serve ad platform in limited beta right now:

Execs from the app have been selling the self-serve model to buyers over the last quarter, according to a recent pitch deck sent to agencies across Europe. TikTok outlined its plan to test letting advertisers across the U.K., France, Italy and the U.S. buy ads through its ads manager platform rather than a member of the app’s sales team. It’s not a fully self-serve model yet, as TikTok reps are still needed to run the ads once the advertiser has bought them. The model was trialed in the U.S. at the start of the year.

Until that is released to the wider public, you will have to go directly to TikTok. When you buy ads with the team, you have three pricing options on the platform:

  • CPC: cost per click model, something you are probaly used to on other ad platform
  • CPM: cost per thousands, which is still a thing
  • Optimized (CPA): cost-per-acquisition, a figure that target ads to people most likely to convert. However, you pay with a CPC model. Could be interesting for those wanting a CPA model to optimize by click, conversion, views or reach.

Musical.ly to TikTok

During November 2017, we saw Bytedance acquired Musical.ly for $1 billion and then officially rebranded Musical.ly and TikTok into one app in August of 2018. This merger and rebrand helped fuel advertising growth for the platform.    

Bargraphs of Bytedance's marketing share from 2017 to 2019
Source: Totem Media

But this is just advertising spend with a focus on an APAC market. If we want to bring that closer to home, we can compare TikTok to other ad platforms like Snap. Well the game is afoot.

Bar graph of social media growth from their founding

Facebook and Instagram should be afraid of TikTok. The early growth numbers and usage patterns mirror what we saw of Facebook back in 2005. People wanted something other than Facebook, which gave birth to Instagram’s popularity. Now people want something other than Instagram, and they finally have that option.

Facebook won’t be able to buy TikTok like they did Instagram as a means of warding off a threat to their business. Success is not guaranteed for TikTok, but they are workign hard to stay one step ahead of Facebook.

TikTok Pixel

Luckily TikTok has already figured out they need to provide marketers with a pixel to help track the success of advertising campaigns on the platform. You can connect the TikTok pixel to your Google Tag Manager out of the box and has a Pixel helper. similar to other ad platforms, if you need assistance. With this, you can build rules to define what a conversion is and what it takes to achieve a conversion.

You can also work with a 3rd party company including Appsflyer, Doubleclick, Flashtalking and Singular to verify that TikTok is delivering on their ad spend.

TikTok Demographics

chart of where TikTok users reside.

This section is going to focus on the USA, desite the image taken above from a Digiday article that was European focused.

Table of US TikTok metrics from Oct 2019 to March 2020.

TikTok has 27M (million) MAU (monthly active users) in the United States broken out as the following:

  • Age: 85% are under 35 (Gen Z and Millenial)
    • 69% are 13 to 24
    • 31% are 25+
  • Gender:
    • 60% Female
    • 40% Male
  • Operating System:
    • 46% Android
    • 54% Apple

The average user spends 40 minutes/day on the platform. Gen Z spends about 34 minutes/day and 44 minutes/day if you are Millennial. Not bad considering the average user opens the app 9 times/day.

TikTok Audiences overlap with Snap, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Reddit.

Graph of Tiktok user overlap.

When you combine everything above, you see that their growth since 2017 was already in the cards.

Chart of Tiktok audience overlap

TikTok Ad Targeting

Tiktok offers you lots of different targeting options from interests, to behaviours, to hashtags. All of which are great, but the ad manager is still a little barebones. It doesn’t allow you the segmenting capacities of similar other ad managers from LinkedIn, Facebook, or Snap.

Audience Targeting

  • Interest-Based: Beauty, Food, Travel, ect… See image below
  • Custom: Blacklist, Whitelist, Lookalike
  • Pixel

Chart of Interest Targeting at Launch

Demographic Targeting

  • Age: 13 – 17, 18 – 24, 25 – 34, 35 – 44, 45 – 54, 55+
    • *See note below about age gating advertising
  • Gender: Male & Female
  • Location: US, JP, IN
    • no zip/postal targeting but city targeting is available in some countries
  • Language: French, English, Japanesse, etc…

Technological Targeting

  • Carrier Provider (Network Provider): possible in each country above
  • Operating System: iOS, Android
  • Network Type: Wifi, 4G, 3G, 2G

TikTok’s content algorithm is currently powered by a similar recommendation system, per sources. The app is able to recognize what content is in a video, like a dog or a coffee cup, which is useful not only for recommendations in the feed but also could power the advertising system. Digiday.

*TikTok will Age Gate their Advertising.

  • All ages can sign up for TikTok in the US. Starting February 27th, there is a different experience for over and under 13. Under 13-year-old users are not advertised to and we do not collect any data about them as users.
    • With this experience in tact, they are fully FTC and COPPA compliant.
  • Advertisers can employ age targeting, to ensure certain messages are only served to particular users.
  • In-Feed advertising must feature subjects that are 18 or older.

TikTok Formats

Screenshots of TikTok ad formats.

There are tons of ad format options you can run direct on TikTok if you work with the ad and sales team. You have In-Feed Video, Branded Takeover, Top View, Hashtag Challenge and Brand Lens. Lets dig a bit deeper into each one.

In-Feed Videos

This is similar to buying ads on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest feeds. I bet this will be the most competitive ad unit that TikTok offers.

  • What is this?
    • 5 – 15 second long, full screen, clickable, sound on video experiences
    • Combination of sound and full-screen driving CTRs between 1 – 3%
  • Why this ad format?
    • Choices around how to manage your In-Feed:
      1. Fixed CPM reservation buys (branding)
      2. TikTok Ads, our new auction ads product.
    • Optimize your unit to drive awareness (CPM buy), to drive clicks (CPC), or to drive sales (oCPC – TikTok’s newest buy type, optimizing for conversions).
    • Drive significant engagement (avg. 5% ER) and click to site (1-3% CTR)

Branded Takeover

If you have ever seen a site taken over for a video game launch like Halo, this is like that but for inside the TikTok app. This is perfect for brand and product launches. Not sure how well it will drive purchase intent right away, though.

  • What is this?
    • Unit appears right when users open TikTok, and is the first thing users will see, day-of. Formats available (all full screen):
      1. 3-second long still image’
      2. 5-second Video
  • Why this ad format?
    • Achieve optimal reach the day of your takeover – owned entirely by your brand
    • Drive users to an external URL destinations or to the native Hashtag Challenge page (to maximize Challenge traffic day-of)
    • Currently, brands averaging anywhere between 7 – 10%+ CTR

Top View

I consider this like the video that auto-plays that no one wanted or asked for upon opening an app or site. Someone will maybe buy this…

  • What is this?
    • Top View evolves the Brand Takeover concept, and combines it with the first in-feed position. After :03s, video seamlessly becomes the first in-feed post.
    • Top View units are sound-on throughout the entire experience.
  • What is this achieving?
    • With Top View, we amplify the premium quality of a Takeover – continuing to Reach everyone on the platform, now seamlessly integrating the native experience of an in-feed unit – all in a Sound-On experience.

*The Ultimate Launch Moment
Own your moment in this upfront, extensive, premium real estate. To date, Top Views in China have been driving 25 – 40% stronger CTR than their Brand Takeover counterparts, and often have 50% of views reach 5s.

Hashtag Challenge

Screenshots of Chiptole's lid flip challenge.

Screenshts of Chipotle’s Lid Flip Challenge.

Be careful what you wish for. We have all known brands who did the hashtag challenge and it went sideways. Make sure you understand the downside of this.

What is this?
TikTok’s Signature Ad Product – a User Generated Branded Content Machine. Tap into your audience’s natural tendency to create & share their own content.

Invite audiences to follow a prompt and film themselves participating in the “Challenge” – using the assigned #Hashtag. Employ influencers, the fuel behind the Challenge to distribute the Challenge prompt through their authentic and original voice

Branded Lens

Snap has lens and charges 5 figures for one day. TikTok has one too.

What is this?
Produced in-house, we can create 2D, 3D & AR lenses, to radically transform our audience’s environment. We’ll partner with brands to curate their own experience, granting them a top spot in our ‘Trending’ tab for 6 days. In-Feed media can drive users directly into the Lens experience.

64% of our users have used face filters or lenses. Encourages deeper engagement, with longer time spent, sampling and product discovery. Pair with a Challenge, to encourage continued use and exposure.

43% would like to use a computer-generated try-on for retail, clothing, beauty etc.

That is it for this week and all the research we could dig up on advertising on TikTok and our complete guide to the ad platform. We will continue to update this artile as we get new information.

TikTok Ad Specs

Image Ad Specifications

TikTok Ads Manager supports both image ad and video ad formats.   Below, you will find two tables. One for the specifications for the News Feed App Series ad placements for image ads. The other for specifications for the TikTok ad placements and News Feed App Series ad placements for video ads on the TikTok.

  News Feed App Series Image Ads Pangle Image Ads
Placement BuzzVideo:
•BuzzVideo In-Feed Ads
•BuzzVideo details page
•BuzzVideo video post-roll ads
•BuzzVideo in-feed story

Babe:
•Babe In-Feed Ads
•Babe details page

Interstitial Ads:
•Normal Interstitial

Banner Ads:
•Normal Banner
•Icon-only Banner
•Video thumbnail banner

Native Ads:
•Normal Native
•Video thumbnail native
App Open Ads:
•Normal App Open

Ad Composition Image creative + brand or app name (logo) + ad description + CTA button

Image creative + brand or app name (logo) + ad description + CTA button

File Type .JPG or .PNG .JPG or .PNG
Image Resolution No restrictions. We suggest a minimum resolution of 1200*628px.

1200*628px / 640*640px / 720*1280px

File Size

No specific restrictions. We suggest a maximum of 500 KB.

Up to 500 KB max
App or File Name

For app names, we support 4-40 characters (latin) and 2-20 (asian characters).

For brand names, we support 2-20 characters (latin) and 1-10 (asian characters).

Note:
-Emojis cannot appear in the app name or brand name.
-Punctuations and spaces will also occupy characters.
-Depending on phone model and operating system, longer text can be at risk for not showing completely on the screen display.

Ad Description

For descriptions, we support 12-100 characters (latin) and 6-50 (asian characters).

Note:
-Emojis, “{ }” and “#” cannot appear in the description.
-Punctuations and spaces will also occupy characters.
-Depending on phone model and operating system, longer text can be at risk for not showing completely on the screen display.

Suggestions for better ad performance and user experience:

  1. Keep key creative elements in the middle of the screen. This prevents them from being covered by the description or logo and to avoid being slightly cropped on the sides in order to fit different display sizes.
  2. Ad creative should be localized; languages other than the local official language where the ad will be shown should not be shown too often.

Note: In order to make it easier for you to create and upload image ad creative, we have developed the image cropping tool. With this tool, you’re able to upload images of any aspect ratio and resize those unqualified images to meet the image aspect ratio requirement. 

Video Ad Sepcifications

  TikTok Video Ads News Feed App Series Video Ads Pangle Video Ads
Placement TikTok In-Feed Ads BuzzVideo:
•BuzzVideo In-Feed Ads
•BuzzVideo details page ads
•BuzzVideo story ads
Babe:
•Babe In-Feed Ads
•Babe details page ads

Interstitial Ads:
•Normal Interstitial

Rewarded Video Ads

Banner Ads:
•Normal Banner
•Small Video Banner
•Icon-only Banner

Native Ads:
•Normal Native
App Open Ads:
•Normal App Open

Ad Composition Video creative + ad display image + brand or app name (logo) + ad description + CTA button Video creative + brand or app name (logo) + ad description + CTA button

Video creative (or thumbnail image) + brand or app name (logo) + ad description + CTA button

File Type .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .gif .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, or .avi
Video Resolution Resolution must be a minimum of 540*960px, 640*640px, or 960*540px. No restrictions. We suggest a minimum resolution of 720*1280px, 640*640px, or 1280*720px.

No restrictions. We suggest a minimum resolution of 720*1280px, 640*640px, or 1280*720px.

File Size ≤500 MB ≤500 MB ≤500 MB
App or File Name

For app names, we support 4-40 Latin alphabet letters and 2-20 Asian characters.
For brand names, we support 2-20 Latin alphabet letters and 1-10 Asian characters.

Note:
•We do not support Emojis in the app name or brand name.
•Punctuation marks and spaces count as characters.
•Depending on the mobile phone model and operating system, longer text may be at risk of being cut off from the display area on the screen.

Ad Description

For descriptions, we support 1-100 Latin alphabet letters and 1-50 Asian characters.

Note:
 •We do not support Emojis or these special characters: “{ }” or       “#” in the description.
 •Punctuation marks and spaces count as characters.
 •Depending on the mobile phone model and operating system, longer text may be at risk of being cut off from the display area on the screen.

Suggestions for better ad performance and user experience:

  1. Keep key creative elements in the middle of the screen. This prevents them from being covered by the description or logo and to avoid being slightly cropped on the sides in order to fit different display sizes.
  2. Ad creative should be localized; languages other than the local official language where the ad will be shown should not be shown too often.

Note: In order to make it easier for you to create and upload image ad creative, we have developed the image cropping tool. With this tool, you’re able to upload images of any aspect ratio and resize those unqualified images to meet the image aspect ratio requirement.

TikTok Creative Best Practices

You can checkout the support pages on TikTok for best practices for creative you want to run. TikTok also also supports a suite of creative tools for the ad platform:

Resources

  1. Digiday: TikTok is quietly testing ads
  2. ADWeek: Biddable Ads Are Coming to TikTok, Opening Up the Popular Platform to More Marketers
  3. Digiday: TikTok is testing interest-based ad targeting
  4. Digiday: Pitch deck: TikTok is testing cost-per-click ad pricing
  5. Turner: Rise of TikTok
  6. TikTok Business Help Center: Ad specs