New digital platforms are springing up and new-ish ones are finally opening up paid advertising, giving brands access to users who are creating and consuming content in novel ways. We take a look at the potential pitfalls and what type of content your ads could conceivably be sandwiched between.

With all kinds of digital developments landing this week (think along the lines of  the iOS 14 updates affecting Facebook and blockchain developments for marketers), I almost missed the meeting invite from a supplier announcing they had attained the veritable (digital) holy grail… An advertising partnership with TikTok which allowed for paid placements. A ripple of sheer excitement ran through my office skype group (strictly meme focused) and my office teams’ group (obviously far more serious). Collectively, we bandied about wild theories ranging from how paid placements would work, who would be first to get on the band-wagon and, of course, how the influencer / paid media partnerships would run.

Like any strategic digital planner worth her salt, I boned up on all the verified TikTok stats we had on hand before the meeting. Pretty gripping and at times surprising stuff. In South Africa there are well over 6-million users and the app is massively popular among all race groups. The majority of users are under 25, but a significant number are older than 25. It was SA’s second most downloaded social app on the Android Play Store and globally it has surpassed 1.5 billion downloads.

As we all stampeded into our virtual teams meeting with the Golden Supplier of TikTok, I wondered what marvels would be revealed and quickly saw that TikTok ads function in a very similar way to the Facebook Family of Apps. An advertiser chooses an objective, opts-in to placements and uploads creative. Then the TikTok algorithm delivers results at the lowest possible rate. Standard stuff I hear you say, well, all the easier to take to it like a fish to water then.

The available placements might take a little getting used to, but they sure do make the most of that immersive video that goes hand in hand with the platform. Stand-alone placements such as ‘Top View’ and ‘Brand Takeover’ help capture users’ attention through a full-screen visual experience. In-feed ads are more native, allowing advertisers to integrate video content into users ‘for you’ feed. I’m not going to get into the racist undertones of the Branded Effects explainer video, but let’s just say it would be advisable for TikTok to update their deck – Stat – before they have a PR crisis on their hands. In a way, that’s strike one, their own ads for business page are not even suitable for business.

Top of mind at Digital Optimization is to make sure that our clients’ ads appear in a 100% brand safe and brand relevant environment. Of course, all agencies want to steer clear of whatever insalubrious TikTok challenges emerge in 2021. I shudder to think of what will top the infamous #skullcrusherchallenge of 2020. So, what guarantees does TikTok give that paid placements will be displayed between brand safe and brand relevant TikToks?

The company is clearly aware that brands and agencies need a lot of assurances before they commit and TikTok tried to allay fears by making their stance public in March 2021 a press release.. In it, TikTok announced a partnership with OpenSlate which provides third-party independent measures to ensure safe advertising environment’s for TikTok’s partners.

OpenSlate’s offering is solid, it works by “applying OpenSlate ratings pre-campaign and then sharing video-level reporting to confirm the outcome”. This partnership provides advertisers with “the greatest degree of transparency and the confidence of working with a third-party lens.” But, wait for the caveat…it has so far only been rolled out in the US, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom… No mention of South Africa yet. So, will we find ourselves in the veritable Wild West of paid TikTok I wonder?

Cut back to the home office and post supplier sesh, my team and I did a quick inventory of clients as we tried to decide who would be the best fit for a foray into TikTok. Here of course was the rub, it’s always give and take. We want the engaged eyeballs and to tap into this burgeoning African market, but sure as heck don’t want to be seen between inappropriate content (underage thirst trap anyone?). In light of the fact that this is a new platform and the questionable Branded Content explainer video, I’m not convinced TikTok is totally set up to cater to the African Market right now, although I have no doubt this is not the last development on the topic.

Think your brand is ready to TikTok? Get your marketing brain in the game first with our TikTok basics checklist:

  1. First and foremost, does your brand have a TikTok brand page? You’ll need one for your ads to be published.
  2. Is your TikTok ads manager set-up? (If not, DO is on-hand to assist 😊)
  3. Are you making TikToks and not Ads? It’s key to show users something rather than tell them something, storytelling needs to be at the heart of any brand advertising on TikTok.
  4. Have you built your TikTok for sound on and with the correct video specs? This is a fully immersive mobile environment, so make the most of it!
  5. Does your brand’s TikTok give the SA audience what they want to see? Users come to TikTok to dial up positivity, keep the good vibes flowing and be entertained by TikToks which reference local newsworthy or notorious events.