TikTok Takes the Next Step in its Ad Evolution

TikTok continues to roll out products at a pace analogous to its signature video format. Just hours after we wrote about its video resume program, TikTok announced a new ad format. Known as Spark Ads, it’s the next evolutionary step in TikTok’s ad monetization, following a native style that’s table stakes in social content.

Specifically, the “native” element is present in that advertisers can boost the distribution of organic posts. This is meant to engender greater ad engagement through a format that flows with, rather than interrupts, TikTok’s UX. Beyond delivery mechanism, the ad spots themselves are just like regular TikToks.

Can TikTok Kill the Resume?

Strategic Imperative

Avoiding interruptive formats is common to the social playbook, as noted. But TikTok’s UX makes it an even greater strategic imperative. That’s because the short-form nature of its content breeds a discovery-based use case of bouncing from video to video. That momentum can be doused by interruptive ads.

Another native staple of TikTok’s user experience is Duets. For those unfamiliar, this lets users remix and amplify a given video. Spark Ads lets brands enable this as an option to extend campaign reach through Duets’ inherent virality. Or they can opt-out of Duets if they see brand risk in its remixing component.

Putting all this in action, Costa Coffee’s Spark Ad trial drove 42 million impressions at a $1.89 CPM. It also gained 18,000 new fans on TikTok which is a 159 percent increase. Speaking of which, TikTok continues to extend its ad analytics. Spark Ads includes metrics for video views and conversions (defined per campaign).

One outcome and intended goal of all of the above could be to grow TikTok’s addressable market of advertisers. On one level this happens as it lowers barriers for businesses to turn existing videos into ad units. On another level, it lowers barriers for down-market SMBs and individuals to get into the ad game easily.

Place Rewind: ‘Creative is King’ on TikTok


The prevailing theme in all of the above is native. And this is on-brand for TikTok. In its relatively young lifespan as an ad monetization play, it has already developed a playbook around native best practices. For example, SMB marketing on TikTok should create videos that are in the organic “language” of the UX.

“Brands should approach the platform in a way that feels native and is similar to the way any user would approach the platform,” TikTok’s Head of SMB & Operations Rebecca Sawyer told us during Localogy Place. She recommends getting to know the language and style of the platform and “create with intent.”

What is that language and style? It’s all about content that’s raw and genuine, such as behind-the-scenes footage. For SMBs, that could be everything from a restaurant kitchen to a pizza delivery ride-along. Sawyer cites a particularly-popular beekeeper who builds narratives around the honey production process.

Spark ads are now an extension of that philosophy, allowing the bars and beekeepers of the world to continue creating… but with more amplification triggers. At first, Spark Ads will be more of a brand tool, moving down-market over time and among SMBs on the younger and/or tech-adoptive end of the spectrum.

We’ll continue watching for evolutions and adoption of Spark Ads, as well as TikTok’s ongoing rapid pace of innovation and rollouts.

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