The advertising ecosystem is beginning to comprehend the growing reach and influence of TikTok, but there is still much to be understood about emerging trends, key tactics and best practices for developing successful creative advertising strategies on the platform. While TikTok appeals to brands with abundant opportunities for creative expression, as well as a wide range of ad formats, these can also present challenges to those unfamiliar with the platform.
A Nielsen-TikTok study revealed that TikTok users enjoy discovering new and relevant content, and 52% learn about new products through brand ads on the platform. However, through driving creative advertising campaigns with various brands across industries, Nativex has also found that brands which demonstrate authenticity and transparency tend to gain trust, and those that collaborate with the wider community to empower co-creation also sustain engagement better. As TikTok’s potential for brand-building continues to increase, companies hoping to create and sustain user engagement must conceptualise robust, adaptable creative strategies, as well as sustain the execution of immersive creative ads on the platform.
Customising creatives: The impact of platform and geography
When it comes to developing creative campaigns, advertisers have to take into account their industry and avoid implementing a one-size-fits-all approach across sectors. With TikTok, a platform that thrives on hyper-visual content, creatives become an even more important tool to meet campaign objectives, foster engagement, and drive conversions.
As different geographical markets and user demographics can have vastly different responses and engagement with different types of creatives, an experimentation-based approach to the development of creatives can help enhance effectiveness. For example, if brands are new to TikTok advertising, the creatives typically produced for other social channels (such as Facebook and Instagram) can be very different, and reproducing the exact same creatives across different channels may negatively impact outcomes. As such, creatives should match the look, feel and tone of native content on TikTok, in order to be most effective. Experimentation with multiple creative types, such as product-focused creative or meme-based creatives, will be highly useful for brands to assess market behaviour and receptiveness effectively.
In order to gain a competitive edge in different geographical markets, advertisers should consider localising the language of market-specific creatives, as well as leveraging locally-relevant content and references. For example, in larger Asian markets such as Japan, South Korea and China, the use of in-market references, such as local songs, significantly improves the effectiveness and engagement of creative ads. However, specific countries within the same region may respond differently—for instance, Nativex has seen that audiences from Malaysia broadly resonate with cultural references from South Korea and Japan, owing to the international influence and impact of these countries beyond their geographical borders.
Leveraging the power of localisation, Nativex employed song pairing and special tactics through a creative TikTok campaign to drive user downloads and brand exposure globally and in Japan for Magic Tiles 3, a mobile game from Amanotes. By employing a multi-layered strategy that included pairing ad creatives with trending songs, as well as targeting specific holidays and seasons to launch creatives, Magic Tiles 3 reached number one on Japanese music game charts, and recorded almost 300 million game downloads worldwide.
The most effective creatives for different industries and sectors
For product and sales-focused businesses such as ecommerce companies, product videos are an ideal format that advertisers should prioritise. Beyond functional output in terms of showcasing products and highlighting unique selling points, these video creatives are highly cost-effective and can be produced in bulk. Additionally, through the use of compelling visuals such as moving images, advertisers can showcase a range of product offerings, ongoing promotions and even other marketing-centric elements to appeal to their target consumers.
Another impactful type of creative focuses on app demonstrations, where users are directed to in-app actions, such as making payments and subscribing to services. This is especially useful for gaming companies—based on Nativex’s experience, gameplay demonstrations and showcases continuously feature as some of the most popular creative formats. Further emphasising this, data from TikTok reveals that gaming creatives that focus on a specific element of the game can result in a nearly 50% increase in click-through rates. Finally, as an additional dimension, the reach and effectiveness of gaming creatives can be amplified through gameplay demonstrations with key opinion leaders, and also platform-focused tactics such as Branded Hashtag Challenges (Branded HTC).
Apart from product videos, businesses can also explore the integration of multiple creative formats and elements across a single brand campaign, with each serving different purposes. For example, dance and music-based videos leverage entertainment quality to increase user interest, while product unboxing videos and reviews are impactful in terms of discovery and building awareness. The combined engagement from both forms help increase overall engagement, and drive conversions by encouraging viewers to make direct purchases.
Optimising creative volume
Once brands develop and finalise robust creative campaign strategies, the next area of consideration is around optimal creative volume for each campaign. Some advertisers may choose to execute a standard quantity of creatives across campaigns and channels, but brands should ideally customise this volume as far as possible, in order to maximise effectiveness. As a broad guideline, TikTok shares that advertisers should consider adding one to three creatives under each ad group, and refresh creatives with four to five new additions each week. When released, fresh creatives should be classified under a new ad group (rather than an existing one)—this will help increase the volume of new users, especially with campaigns focusing on conversions and installation.
While there is no silver bullet that can provide a customised solution across different campaigns, advertisers can consider three key factors to guide their decisions when determining the optimal creative volume and frequency—ad spend, audience size and creative production. First, brands should evaluate ad spend and determine if they are able to allocate sufficient budget for more creatives. Second, determining the size of a particular target audience is crucial in helping brands decide the scale of the campaign. Finally, creative production must be taken into account, as this is also closely linked to their advertising objectives—for example, advertisers looking to run retargeting ads might not need as many ads as brands who are looking to do broad audience targeting.
To help optimise campaigns in line with the above guidelines, Nativex recommends that advertisers conduct A/B testing with different kinds of creatives to determine which of them work best. If a balance across these factors can be achieved, brands will be able to formulate a working guide that can be applied across different campaigns. However, this means that brands will need to constantly experiment and test out different permutations before arriving at an optimal ad volume.
Measuring ad success
Measuring the success of customised creatives is also a key component of determining effectiveness and optimising ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend). While creative advertisements are subjective by nature, and may be received differently by different consumers, evaluation is simplified through the incorporation of custom attributes into the creative process—with variable qualities ranging from the involvement of KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders), to the inclusion of humour, the showcase of a product and more.
Eventually, during the measurement process, individual creatives can be categorised according to these attributes, and data around ad volume and cost per result can be tabulated and analysed in an aggregated manner. This tabulated reporting approach also enhances creative development, as it offers a data-driven basis with which to customise and adapt creatives accordingly.
Suki Lin is senior director of Asia-Pacific at app marketing firm Nativex