Understanding TikTok – from audiences to ad formats

In our recent Croud Academy Live session, Croud’s Senior Social Advertising Manager, Danielle Carter, explored the rise of TikTok, its user base and available advertising formats. Below is a summary of the session.

Why TikTok?

By now, nearly everyone has heard of TikTok as it has quickly become one of the most downloaded video apps in the world. With users consuming an average of 61 minutes of video per day, the app has a highly engaged user base – and it only seems like their audience will continue to grow.

While 44% of TikTok users are primarily made up of Gen Z users aged 16-24, the app has seen a shift in age demographics, as the US alone has seen an approximate 50% increase in users aged 18-34.

TikTok’s interface

On opening the app, you are greeted with the homepage or “For You” section. On this page, you can browse content from trending hashtags, the accounts you follow, and any other videos recommended to you by the app. Additionally, you can curate your own board in the “Following” section of the app, allowing you to view the selective group of accounts you follow.

The “discover page” is a hub of popular music pages, brand and celebrity accounts, paid sponsorships, and most importantly, trending hashtags. The app has quickly become notorious for its TikTok challenges, where users share videos of themselves performing and encouraging others to recreate their video. Challenge related hashtags have become some of the most popular content on the app, inspiring users to act, dance, and sing in order to reproduce viral videos. Whether you click into a trending challenge hashtag or a popular music page, you’ll find a slew of content from users who contributed to a particular hashtag by creating their own content around its theme.

Ad formats

Brand Takeover

Successful brand takeovers are attention grabbing and include a strong call-to-action. These ads are typically 3-5 second long videos directly shown in full-screen mode on opening the app. Branding and key messages should be at the forefront of these ads.


TopView formats are displayed upon opening the app and allow for up to 60 seconds of video time played on full-screen. It is important to film vertically and add key messaging to the centre of the ad, to ensure vital pieces will not suffer being cropped out. Additionally, all TikTok videos automatically play with sound, making it vital for advertisers to add audio into all of their content to enhance the viewer’s experience.

In-feed video

In-feed videos live in the discover section of the app and require striking content within the first few seconds of viewing, as the competition to gain viewership is high. Thus, brands often partner with influencers to utilize their fame and create eye-catching content. These vertically filmed videos are typically direct response ads that include a strong call-to-action, encouraging viewers to engage with the brand further. 

Generally speaking, if you are using other social media platforms, such as Stories on Facebook or Instagram, you can use the same content on TikTok – just bear in mind that the platform may crop your content to fit the app’s standards

Branded hashtag

This format is unique to TikTok, and is made up of two parts: a hashtag challenge and an official video. The hashtag challenge allows users to create a hashtag and an official 15 second video, challenging and instructing viewers on how to recreate the original content. Best practices would include partnering with an influencer or “creator” to leverage their platform, and creating three to six clearly branded videos. This will then result in a page featuring your official videos, along with others who participated in your unique hashtag challenge. 

Branded effect

The branded effect format is mainly used in-feed and can be easily incorporated into wider campaigns, like hashtag challenges or cross-platform campaigns. With this format, many brands aim to make it as fun and visual as possible by incorporating stickers, filters and special effects into their videos.

Real life examples

Too Faced, in the UK

Too Faced positioned themselves with a five second, full-screen brand takeover ad. It showcased before and after imagery of people using their products, quickly grabbing the attention of their targeted female audience.

The campaign undoubtedly went viral, receiving 7.6 million impressions, 1.3 million clicks to the product page, and an 18.38% CTR.

Maybelline in Japan

The goal of this campaign was to lift brand favorability and recognition through in-feed ads. Maybelline created a narrative that compared boyfriends to eyelashes – they’re just not always what you want them to be! It went viral and created large amounts of engagement and brand awareness. This campaign received 48,700 likes, 2,907 comments and an 80% increase in brand awareness. 

For more information, read TikTok’s case study on this ad campaign here.

You can watch the recording of the session, which includes extra content on how to set up a campaign, in the video below:

If you have any questions on TikTok, or would like to speak with the social advertising team, contact us

by Danielle Carter
18 June 2020



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