Brands find TikTok a ‘sunny place’ for advertising

Ever since young Americans began their exodus from commercial television to streaming services and social media, advertisers have sought the digital equivalent of home shopping channels, an online place where users could interact with advertisements rather than to simply click quickly in front of them.

Now they think they’re closer to finding that holy grail of marketing, and that is nothing like QVC.

Welcome to the holiday shopping season on TikTok, where retailers are present like never before, their authentic-looking ads falling between dances, confessionals, comedic routines and makeovers.

Young men and women feature shimmering American Eagle tops as pulsating music plays in videos designed to look like they were filmed in the 1990s. Woman in a unicorn jumpsuit recovers a specific mark cookies at Target to the tune of “Jingle Bell Rock”. A home chef mixes and bakes Walmart’s Apple Cinnamon Cakes in 30 seconds, displaying a retailer’s blue bag.

This type of advertising presence would have been unfathomable for retailers last year, when President Donald J. Trump threatened to ban TikTok because of its Chinese parent company and marketers were still struggling to find the best way to get it. ‘reach users of the platform. But President Biden revoked the executive order in June, and TikTok topped one billion monthly users in September. As a result, a steady stream of products, from leggings to carpet cleaners, has gone viral on the platform this year, often accompanied by the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, which has been viewed over seven billion times.

TikTok has worked hard to make the platform more lucrative for the marketers and creators they work with. And TikTok’s popularity with Gen Z and Millennials, who are drawn to its addicting algorithm and setup as an entertainment destination versus a social network, has made the appeal to retailers undeniable.

“The growth we’ve seen is insane,” said Krishna Subramanian, founder of influencer marketing firm Captiv8, where about a dozen employees focus on TikTok. “Brands have gone from just testing TikTok to making it a budget item or creating dedicated campaigns for TikTok specifically. “

As of August, at least 18 public clothing, footwear, makeup and accessories retail brands have referred to their efforts on TikTok in calls with analysts and investors. Competitors also took note. Instagram, for example, developed a TikTok-like feature called Reels and worked to attract creators.

In reports shared with advertisers and obtained by The New York Times, TikTok said Gen Z users, defined as 18 to 24 years old, on average watched more than 233 TikToks per day and spent 14% of their time in more about the app than millennials or Generation X on a daily basis. TikTok also told an agency that 48% of Millennial Moms are on the platform, and women ages 25 to 34 spend an average of 60 minutes a day on the TikTok app.

TikTok declined to comment for this article, and the numbers it provided to advertisers could not be independently verified.

“TikTok is all about mindset,” said Christine White, senior director of media and content strategy at Ulta Beauty, which increased its spend on TikTok. “People go there for many different reasons – they seek to connect, they seek to laugh, they seek to find wellness stories, and they inadvertently seek to shop, if they consciously know or no.

The retailer used the creators of TikTok to introduce the addition of Ulta Beauty sections to Target stores and posed a challenge asking regular TikTok users to show off their favorite skin care products. Ulta Beauty has also seen its sales increase after viral videos involving certain products it offers, such as Clinique’s Black Honey lipstick.

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

Retailers are increasingly turning to popular TikTok designers to model or demonstrate their products and encourage store visits. They’re testing live shopping events, where people can interact with hosts and purchase real-time videos, along with other new tools in the app. Brands have also repurposed the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt concept with sponsored giveaways tagged #TikTokMadeMeGiftIt.

Marketers are now talking about their spending on TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, the way they discuss more established advertising platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.

“The last vacation, what really messed things up was Trump tried to play with TikTok,” said Mae Karwowski, managing director of Obviously, an influencer company that has worked on TikTok campaigns with. retailers like Ulta and Zappos. “We had a lot of brands that said they were going to do a ton on TikTok and then they got really worried. This year over 60% of our campaigns have a TikTok component.”

One of those who benefit is Maddison Peel, a 22-year-old woman in Hebron, Ky., Who posts cooking videos on her account with more than 300,000 subscribers. She gained a huge following this year after a clip she took off with a roast chicken and a song by Cardi B.

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

Often times, retailers will send him gift cards to purchase the products used in his cooking videos. Most of the videos are shot at home. If she’s filming in a store, she tries to go there later in the day and bring a friend because, she says, “I feel a little uncomfortable bringing a tripod.”

The longest videos she makes for brands are 45 to 60 seconds long.

“No Gen Y or Gen Z watch TV so much, so they don’t see these ads,” she said, “but when they parade on TikTok, they see them.”

Ulta’s Ms. White was among the ad experts who said that TikTok’s algorithm’s efficiency set it apart from other popular platforms, and pointed out that it was still at a stage where anyone can go viral – like Mrs. Peel and her roast chicken. . TikTok asks users to choose a few interests when they first join the platform, then uses video watch times, likes and comments, as well as tags on the videos such as captions. , sounds and hashtags, to adapt its recommendations.

The app’s algorithm then plays a constant stream of short videos featuring life tips, dances, cute animals, or comedic routines. More content is available on a Discover page, and users can follow their favorite creators. Marketers can pay to boost their sponsored content.

“You don’t get lost and spend hours on Instagram scrolling through people you don’t even know, but on TikTok it definitely does happen,” Captiv8’s Mr. Subramanian said.

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

Initially, his audience for silly skits and reaction videos was largely made up of teenagers. But after she got pregnant and started posting about it, “it opened up a new demographic” of people in their 20s and 30s. In a recent ad for Fabletics, she playfully modeled clothes on her baby girl, joking about her drool, and then showcased her own outfit with a touch of self-mockery.

“It’s a lot of work doing TikTok,” said Ms. Herbert, a former model. “Making a branding deal on Instagram is always a huge amount of work, but TikTok is a whole different ball game because you are doing an advertisement and trying to make it loyal to your followers and audience.”

American Eagle, with its teenage audience, was earlier than many brands on TikTok. He teamed up with major designers like Addison Rae and stars of the Netflix show “Outer Banks” and experienced his own viral moment with his brand Aerie after an unsponsored review of his leggings spread.

“We continually find that what some of the creators of TikTok wear, American Eagle sells,” said Craig Brommers, chief marketing officer of American Eagle Outfitters.

With mental health being the number one concern for many young people, he said, TikTok has become a “sunny place” compared to other social platforms.

“TikTok is their happy place to express their true selves, and I think the hit on Instagram these days is that it’s too organized and too perfect,” Mr. Brommers said.

He added that Facebook and Instagram still generated substantial business volume for the retailer, but there was a unique type of expression on TikTok and Snapchat that was “not about likes.”

Anna Layza, 31, of Melbourne, Florida, has over a million subscribers on TikTok and recently posted an ad that involved wearing a unicorn jumpsuit and picking up a box of cookies from Target. But she said she has mainly posted on Reels these days, which has recently started paying her for views on a lot of videos.

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

Katrina Estrella, spokesperson for Meta, owner of Instagram, confirmed in an email that the company is testing “a range of bonus programs” in the United States as part of a $ 1 billion investment in the creators.

Still, retailers are eagerly experimenting with TikTok, especially as they see the app appealing to older users. Brands want to be ready in case they go viral.

“There are just certain things that are going to spread or they aren’t,” Ms. Karwowski said of Obviously. “But the TikTok algorithm is really going to amplify things in a way that can all of a sudden change the culture.”

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