Testing, Testing, Testing: 3 Ideas for Making a TikTok (and Not an Ad)

Remember the good ol’ days of flipping through linear TV, watching whatever shows your rabbit ears could pick up? 

However inadvertently, TikTok has essentially recreated this retro experience when they hooked every single demographic in the world on the endless scroll of their For You feed. If we don’t like what we’re seeing, we can just scroll to the next, and then the next, and then the next, just like we’re channel surfing on a classic CRT set trying to figure out which local station picks up American Gladiators.

Sure, TikTok may have some distance to travel to catch up to the amount of television the average viewer consumes–approximately three-hours of TV a day compared to 26-hours of TikTok videos a month–but one basic truth is emerging: people watch TikTok a lot like they’re watching TV.

But that doesn’t mean what works on television–Linear, CTV, or otherwise–is going to work on TikTok. We love these bite-sized videos because they provide an equal measure of information and entertainment, often through wildly esoteric means. That entertainment comes through a one-two punch of profound authenticity and brazen creativity that makes you want to get out of your comfort zone and make your own potentially viral piece of content.

And guess what. That’s exactly how your TikTok ads should feel too. Or, to put it in the words of QuickFrame’s Senior Partnership Growth Manager Emma Henry, “Don’t make an ad, make a TikTok.”

Last week, Emma–otherwise known as our resident TikTok stan–sat down with Advertising Week to discuss creative strategies that’ll help alleviate any stress you may have getting into the rhythm of this incredibly popular app. 

Let’s tap into some of the strategies Emma surfaced during the webinar so you can learn why the right creative mindset can unlock robust testing opportunities that’ll deliver big screen performance, on the smallest screens in your home.

Learn More: Social Media Video Ad Specs & Placements Guide

Brand Sensitivity, Shmensitivity.

Throw out everything you’ve ever told yourself about brand sensitivity when it comes to TikTok. The app is your mad scientist’s lab, your testing ground, your research facility to go wild with how you position your brand in the market. Yes, this is distinctively different from what you may have used on other social channels before but, if you couldn’t tell, TikTok is not like your run of the mill platform.

TikTok offers a different user experience specifically because the platform’s original video creation tools have given users an incredible amount of creative control over their content.

Because of this, audiences expect ad creative that is native to the platform, by which we mean authentically and brazenly outside of the box. That authenticity stretches into the talent you feature in your ads. As Emma mentioned, “Cast people that look like they could be friends with your followers or target audience. From a production standpoint, it’ll be far cheaper than hiring an influencer, plus it’ll feel more authentic.”

Even if it feels a little antithetical to the brand voice you’ve established in previous campaigns, TikTok is the platform for you to wildly experiment on. This is why we consider it inherently less brand sensitive. Take your shot and get weird, because TikTok users love to see it.

Tl;dr: Ads work on TikTok, but don’t think of TikTok videos like you’ve traditionally thought about ad campaigns. They should look just like the fun pieces of content you consume in your off-hours just, you know, from your brand’s professional business account.

Always. Be. Testing.

With less brand sensitivity, you’ve unlocked the ability to test different styles of creative, needling into what works with each iteration of your ad, giving you a myriad of pathways to reach new audiences. TikTok is truly a testing lab, so try out multiple variations of the same ad, swapping out different talent, CTAs, or visual effects to see exactly what is resonating with the users you want to reach. And because you’re expanding your presence onto new platforms, you’ll be able to reach new audiences that would have been impossible in a traditional media mix. 

Creative testing is also an incredibly powerful tool in beating ad fatigue, which is incredibly high on TikTok. The average lifespan of an ad on the platform is less than 21 days. Like we said, TikTok users are constantly scrolling through their For You feeds to find new entertainment, not a carbon-copy ad over and over. 

By testing and iterating on your creative approach, you’ll create a cadence of continually refreshing and republishing your ads so they feel revitalized and new. And the more content you produce, the more data you’ll have to further refine your creative strategy. That fact couldn’t be truer on TikTok. With new videos being posted every minute, regularly publishing new and relevant video marketing content, not just paid advertisements, will ensure your brand doesn’t get lost in a sea of emerging dances and hashtag challenges.

Tl;dr: Testing new styles and creative strategies will increase the potential for attracting new audiences on a platform that will quickly grow tired of your ads.

The Story’s the Thing

TikTok loves a good story, and they’re telling them in hyper-condensed timeframes. Unlike other platforms, TikTok serves up one full-screen video at a time, so viewers are engrossed in the world of a single TikTok before swiping to the next.

As Emma mentioned to Advertising Week, “Keep it short and effective. TikToks can be 10-minutes long, but make sure you have a strong hook and introduce your brand immediately.” As important as it is to grab attention early, you need to make sure your ad creative is following through and delivering a payoff. Chart a narrative arc that will take your audience on a journey for every single TikTok video you run. Human psychology craves narrative, so a clear story is a surefire way to make a memorable mark.

Narrative arcs don’t always have to be a stereotypical story. In other words, don’t overcomplicate your narrative with a convoluted plot. This isn’t Bridgerton or Ozark you’re producing here. Start by establishing a clear beginning, middle, and end to your ad. The beginning could be proposing a question to the audience, then the middle is explaining how your product solves the problem, and then end with a visual depiction of the problem being solved. If you’re hesitant to make a bold choice, start small and scale up your big picture video campaign ideas from there.

Tl;dr: Users crave storytelling, especially on TikTok, so don’t be afraid to give them exactly what they want.

Watch the Full Webinar for More

We’ve just scratched the surface of the invaluable TikTok insights Emma broke down for Advertising Week. What industries are uniquely suited for the app? Do I need high-quality video equipment to produce TikTok ads? Are brands better served producing their own content, or should they go through makers, influencers, or a video production platform?

If you want to continue learning how to tap into the virality of the hottest app in adland, Emma addresses all these questions and more in Choreographing a Creative Mindset on TikTok. Check out the webinar recording to get the full impact of the strategies she illustrated in this fascinating discussion.

Need more TikTok Help? Read our TikTok Video Ad Specs & Placements Guide

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