Mark Get TikTok a ‘Sunny Place’ for Advertising

Ever since young Americans started going from commercial television to broadcasting services and social media, advertisers have been looking for the equivalent of digital home shopping channels, an online place where users could engage with ads instead of clicking on them. quickly.

Now they think they’re closer to getting this holy grail for marketing, and it doesn’t look anything like QVC.

Welcome to the holiday shopping season on TikTok, where retailers are present as never before, advertisements that seem genuine fall into the midst of dance, confession, comedy routine and makeover.

Young men and women show off their brilliant American Eagle heads while playing impressive music in videos designed to appear to have been filmed in the 1990s. A woman in a unicorn onesie retrieves a specific brand of cookie from Target on the tune “Jingle Bell Rock.” A home chef mixed and baked cinnamon apple cake from Walmart in 30 seconds, showing a blue bag to the retailer.

This kind of advertising presence was unthinkable for retailers last year, when President Donald J. Trump threatened to ban TikTok because of its Chinese parent company and the markets were constantly struggling to figure out how best to reach users of the platform. But President Biden fired the executive order in June, and TikTok crossed a billion users each month in September. As a result, a regular stream of products, from leggings and carpet cleaners, went viral on the platform this year, often accompanied by the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, which has been viewed more than seven billion times.

TikTok is working to make the platform more profitable to market and the creators to work with. With the popularity of TikTok and Generation Z and Millennials, attracted by its addictive algorithm and its configuration as an entertainment destination against a social network, the appeal has been denied to retailers.

Krishna Subramanian, founder of the influential marketing company Captiv8, where about a dozen employees focus on TikTok, says: “The growth that we have seen is crazy,” she said. “Brands have moved from just testing TikTok to making it a budget line item or creating dedicated campaigns for TikTok specifically.”

Since August, at least 18 public retail brands, in clothing, footwear, makeup and accessories, have been referring to their efforts on TikTok to appeal to analysts and investors. Competitors also took notice. Instagram, for example, developed a TikTok-like feature called Reels and worked to attract creators.

In reports shared with advertisers and found in the New York Times, TikTok said that Gen Z users, defined as children aged 18 to 24, watched an average of more than 233 TikTok per day and spent 14 percent more time on the application than. millennial or Gen Xers on a daily basis. TikTok also told an agency that 48 percent of millennial mothers were on the platform, and that women ages 25 to 34 spent an average of 60 minutes on the TikTok application a day.

TikTok declined to comment on this article, and its advertised number could not be verified by itself.

“TikTok is absolutely about an idea more than anything,” said Christine White, senior director of media and content strategy at Ulta Beauty, which has increased its TikTok spending. “People will be there for so many different reasons – they’re looking to connect, they’re looking to laugh, they’re looking for stories that smell good, and they’re looking, inadvertently, to buy, whether they know it or not.”

The retailer used TikTok creators to present the Ulta Beauty section of the Target store and posed a challenge to ask regular TikTok users to showcase their favorite skin care products. Ulta Beauty has also seen sales skyrocket after viral videos involving certain products it carries, such as the Black Honey Clinique lipstick.

“We see a lot of impulse shopping,” Ms. White said.

Vendors are using increasingly popular TikTok creators to model or demonstrate their merchandise and encourage store visits. They’re trying live shopping events, where people can interact with their hosts and shop via real-time video, and other new tools in the app. The brand also reused the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt concept with sponsored gifts labeled #TikTokMadeMeGiftIt.

Salespeople are now talking about spending on TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, the way to discuss the most established advertising platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest.

“Last holiday, what was really targeting things was Trump trying to mess with TikTok,” said Mae Karwowski, chief executive of Obviously, an influential company that has worked on TikTok campaigns with retailers like Ulta and Zappos. “We had a lot of brands that were going to do a ton on TikTok, and then they were really worried. This year, more than 60 percent of our campaigns have a TikTok component.”

One of the beneficiaries is Maddison Peel, a 22-year-old from Hebron, Ky., Who posted cooking videos on her own with more than 300,000 followers. He won a big follow-up this year after a clip he made featuring a grilled chicken and a song Cardi B took.

Since then, he has worked with brands and retailers such as Heinz, Kroger and Walmart, earning $ 5,000 to $ 10,000 per month. Payments allowed her to quit her job at McDonald’s, where she earned “not even $ 1,000 every two weeks,” she said.

Often, retailers will send her gift cards to buy used products in her cooking videos. Most videos are filmed at home. If he makes the movie in a store, he tries to go later in the day and take a friend because, he said, “I feel a little awkward carrying a tripod.”

The longest video for the brand lasts 45 to 60 seconds.

“No millennial or Gen Z watch as much TV, so they don’t see these ads,” he said, “but when they’re scrolling on TikTok, they’re watching these.”

Ms. White of Ulta is among the advertising experts who said the effectiveness of TikTok’s algorithm distinguished her from other popular platforms, and pointed out that she was still at a stage where anyone could go viral – like Ms. Peel and grilled chicken li. . TikTok asks users to choose some interests when they first join the platform and then use time to watch videos, likes and comments, and tag on videos such as titles, sounds and hashtags, to tailor its recommendations.

The application algorithm then serves a constant stream of short videos showing life hacks, dances, cute animals or comedy routines. More content is available on a Discover page, and users can follow their favorite creators. Merchants may pay to promote sponsored content.

“You don’t lose and spend hours on Instagram scrolling through people you don’t even know, but on TikTok that definitely happens,” Mr. Subramanian of Captiv8 said.

Abbie Herbert, a 25-year-old TikTok creator in Pittsburgh, joined the platform at the start of the pandemic and quickly gathered 10.6 million followers. She has worked with retailers such as Pottery Barn, Hello Yoga, Amazon Prime and Walmart, and has made more than 100 brand deals this year.

Initially, her audience for silly sketch and reaction videos was largely made with teens. But after she became pregnant and started posting about it, “it opened up a new demographic” to people in their 20s and 30s. In a recent commercial for Fabletics, she plays patterned clothes on her daughter, jokes about her foam, and then shows off her own outfit with a touch of self-deprecation.

“It’s a lot of work to do TikTok,” said Ms. Herbert, a former model. “Making a brand deal on Instagram is always a huge amount of work, but TikTok is another ball game because you’re doing a commercial and trying to make it come true for your followers and the audience.”

American Eagle, with its young audience, was earlier than many brands in TikTok. She teamed up with great creators like Addison Rae and star of the Netflix show “Outer Banks” and experienced her own viral moments with her Aerie brand after a non-sponsored review of her leggings spread.

“We continuously find that what certain TikTok creators wear, American Eagle sells,” said Craig Brommers, chief marketing officer at American Eagle Outfitters.

With mental health a major concern for many young people, he said, TikTok has emerged as a “sunny place” compared to other social platforms.

“TikTok is where they are happy to express themselves, and I think the hit on Instagram these days is it’s too organized and too perfect,” Mr. Brommers said.

He added that Facebook and Instagram still drove a substantial amount of business for the retailer, but that there was a unique kind of expression on TikTok and Snapchat that was “not about love.”

Anna Layza, 31, of Melbourne, Fla., Has more than a million followers on TikTok, and recently posted an ad involving wearing a unicorn onesie and retrieving a box of cookies from Target. But he said he was mostly posting on Reels these days, which recently started paying him for views on many videos.

“TikTok doesn’t pay you to post unless you have a brand you want in the video,” Ms. Layza said. “But Instagram actually pays you and gives you a bonus when you reach a certain number of views.”

Katrina Estrella, a Meta spokeswoman who owns Instagram, confirmed in an email that the company was testing “a series of bonus programs” in the United States as part of a $ 1 billion investment in creators.

Still, retailers are eager to experiment on TikTok, especially when they see the app appealing to older users. Mark wants to be ready just in case they go viral.

“There are just a few things that will catch on or not,” said Ms. Karwowski in Obviously. “But TikTok’s algorithm will really amplify things in a way that can suddenly move the culture.”

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