Many businesses wonder whether it makes sense to run ads on TikTok. The quick answer is “probably, yes”.

However, there is a question which usually remains unaddressed: are they ready to go on TikTok? The quick answer is “unually, no”.

TikTok is not just another placement in a new medium. It requires a new advertising logic; the ads distributed in other social media will not perform well on TikTok.

The true dilemma is whether TikTok should get its share of the ad budget, given that an extra investment is necessary, to create suitable content and update the branding strategy.

Let’s explain this.


TikTok is already big, and it still grows rapidly. Also, its audience is far more than youngsters. So, let’s view a few metrics, just to rule out a couple of misconceptions and proceed to the real issues.


TikTok is much more addictive than the other social media. This fact is confirmed by the huge amount of time that the users remain in the platform. The addiction derives from 3 key elements of TikTok’s concept, and their analysis sheds much light to the nature of successful ads.

First, TikTok videos have an average duration of 16 seconds.

Second, the next video is just one swipe away.

Third, each video is a surprise: something funny, something peculiar, but always personalized. TikTok’s algorithm knows exactly what we like, as it gets tons of data in a very short time.

In other words, the mechanics include one short swipe, expectation for the outcome, a quick decision whether we like it or not, another swipe and another expectation. Those who have tried a slot machine in their life can perfectly understand the vicious circle.

Art by Clark Miller – theinformation.com

This brings a fundamental alteration on the nature of the advertisements

Until now, all media muster their audience by offering something (movies, social networking, sports events, etc). In return, they place ads by interrupting the content’s flow (e.g., tv), near the content (e.g., banners) or even during the content (e.g., product placements). The deal is clear: the users accept a small nuisance, to enjoy the content for free.

TikTok is another story: the ad is the content. It’s not the intermission. It’s the movie.


TikTok ads are very short “films”. They last only a few seconds. But this does not mean that they do not require a scenario.

And here comes the first problem: how will the brand “fit” in the concept of a movie, rather than in a traditional ad? In some cases, the nature of the products or the services of a business provide an easy answer. However, more often than not, the brand needs to adjust. A business can’t overcome this obstacle, unless they invest in a developing or updating their branding strategy.

The second issue is the scenario. To be precise, the trifecta scenario – music – actors. At this stage, we must consider that a “movie” is not enough; we need a “series”. Each campaign requires a screenplay with continuity, cliff-hangers, etc. A single stab can’t land the desired audience nurturing.

During this process, we can’t forget that it’s not about the entertainment of the audience, but the profit of the brand. That’s why the brand strategist needs to approve the scenario, to ensure that it will bring results.

The last part, the production itself, is surprisingly easy. A mobile phone, equipped with a decent camera, can perfectly do the job. Keep in mind that the nature of TikTok and the audience’s preference towards “genuine” content means that expensive productions may have the opposite effect.


TikTok is still the land of opportunity, as the competition of brands is very low and the profits can be striking high, for those who adapt to the nature of the platform.

However, it becomes clear that a mere redistribution of the budget is not enough. TikTok demands dedicated content.

A well-established business, which has the necessary means, needs to evaluate whether the expected return of the TikTok ads is justified, given that part of the budget must be allocated to content creation. Obviously, the opportunity cost of placements in other media should also be considered. The right decision requires careful trial and error, which should reveal the expected ROAS and nominate a sensible budget allocation.

Does this mean that small businesses with a low budget can’t make good use of TikTok? Not really. A talented individual may grasp the concept of the platform and perform miracles. Educated experimentation sometimes pays off.

In any case, it’s the bottom line that matters!

Kostas Michalopoulos, Business Consultant PRAKSIS BCC and CEO of Novogrowth

Source: Novogrowth

Share this article