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TikTok Advertising: 5 Best Practices for In-Feed Ads

Published: January 18, 2022

Author: Catherine Cura


If you were to take a look at the smartphone belonging to any Millennial or Gen-Zer, you would likely find an app icon for TikTok. In September 2021, TikTok reached a billion monthly users, making it the most downloaded app of the year. Of those users, 90% use the app daily. As TikTok’s popularity continues to grow, especially among younger audiences where users under 30 years old account for nearly half of the app’s user base, the advertising and marketing space has had to grow and adapt alongside it.

Unlike traditional advertising done on Google, Facebook, or YouTube, advertising on TikTok presents a unique situation: a user base that’s savvy enough to determine when content is an ad with the ability to skip right past it. As a result, ads have become more nativized in order to blend in with the normal entertainment content.

So, how should brands be leveraging TikTok in their digital marketing strategy going forward? We’ve compiled a list of the top five best practices to build optimized creative ad content that will blend in on TikTok users’ feeds while continuing to entice viewers to act and engage with what they are served.

Best Practice #1: Design for Sound On

Although this is not necessarily a new practice in digital advertising, designing content for sound isn’t just encouraged on TikTok; it is required. Unlike Facebook where users can view a video without sound in their feed, TikTok is designed with a fully sound-on format. In fact, 88% of TikTok users have stated that sound is essential for their experience on the platform.

This provides a wide range of options for advertisers, whether it is utilizing a simple music track, creating a voiceover accompaniment with captions, or testing different audio effects. Although advertisers cannot utilize popular music within ads, TikTok provides a Commercial Music Library with thousands of royalty-free tracks to choose from. Fast-paced tracks at around 120 beats per minute tend to perform the best.

Best Practice #2: Shoot Vertically

Although TikTok offers advertisers the ability to upload horizontal or square assets, creating content in a 9:16, full-screen aspect ratio is recommended. Videos that utilize this ratio have seen a 60.5% increase in impressions on any given piece of content. That’s because the full-screen ad is more eye-catching and native-looking to the platform than anything in a horizontal or square format. Users aren’t expecting to have to rotate their phones while using the app.

That being said, it is important to ensure you stick to UI “safe zones.” Once the ad is served, there are certain native elements that will be overlaid and could prevent content from being viewed properly. To prevent interrupting the user experience, abiding by the safe zones will allow for a seamless TikTok ad view.

Trends can come and go quickly, but being able to capitalize on them can help ads blend in even better on TikTok’s platform. Trends such as challenges, effects, music, and memes can change quickly — every three to five days on average. However, referencing a trend in your creative content will help users more easily relate to your brand.

Two advertisers that have done a great job with this are Vineyard Vines and Prada. Vineyard Vines keeps its TikTok ads light and humorous with the feature of its signature pink whale and use of the Bottlecap Challenge, while Prada upgrades the typical Character Selection Screen trend to display its new clothing line.

Best Practice #4: Influencers are Your Friends

For many businesses, developing new video content can take anywhere from six to eight months to create. For those who may not have the ability to churn out the kind of rapid-fire video ads TikTok thrives on, the Creator Marketplace is an accessible solution. Through this offering, businesses can partner with an existing creator/influencer and work on new ads based on their industry, goals, and budget. Depending on the market and geographical location, it may behoove an organization to utilize a mid-tier content creator or influencer rather than a celebrity, as these creators likely have built a sense of trust with their audience. This could lead to higher conversion rates down-funnel.

However, with all of this in mind, we are led to the most important best practice of all…

Best Practice #5: Test, Test, Test!

There are pages upon pages of best practices presented by TikTok and the industry more broadly regarding what works on the platform. In general though, you are not going to know what works for your brand until you test it out. For clean testing, TikTok’s advertising UI offers an A/B testing tool. Not only can you test different ad material, but you can also test different audiences. Advertisers can also utilize TikTok’s multi-session measurement ability to receive a more detailed picture on how different content is performing.

In the wake of iOS 14, it has never been more important to conduct creative and systems tests on TikTok. Better familiarizing yourself with your audience reach and users’ habits will help you tailor creative assets that will grow your brand and increase overall performance.

Overall, TikTok is a platform of opportunity for advertisers. It allows brands to intentionally launch content that appears native, unpolished, and authentic to appeal to their target audience. With these TikTok advertising best practices in mind, new ads can be set up for more success and ultimately lead to stronger creative testing and content.


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