Fears of a Future without TikTok

By Dylan Newe.

With a proverbial genie valued at $66B out of the bottle, fears of a future without TikTok seem a little premature. However, all of the commotion surrounding the entertainment app has prompted the slightly hysterical conundrum; “Is TikTok just a fun, frivolous app or the greatest threat to the security of the western world?”

The debate continues to rage around the innovative short-form video platform and its perceived threat to the U.S’s citizens from Washington’s lawmakers. TikTok CEO Shou Chew, a 40-year-old Singaporean army reservist and former Goldman Sachs banker appeared in front of a congressional hearing on March 23rd to answer various allegations thrown at the platform. These include data theft, security risks due to connections to the Chinese Government and a general negative impact on the health of young people.

As this hysteria plays out, and as the calls to ban it entirely in the U.S. grow, it would be prudent for brands to at least consider a future without TikTok and ensure they’re ready to act accordingly.

TikTok has been, or is currently banned for various state, military and parliamentary staff in the EU, US, UK, India, Norway, Pakistan, New Zealand, Canada and Taiwan to name but a few. In February 2019, The US Federal Trade Commission fined TikTok $5.7 million for illegally collecting personal information from children. And in March 2021 it reached a $92 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit over alleged privacy violations.

In spite of the bans and fines TikTok is defying the general trend of a slowing digital ad market. According to WARC its adspend revenues are predicted to rise by a whopping 51.7% year on year to $15.2 billion this year. This is compared to single digit growth for YouTube and Instagram and 9% contraction for Facebook. So their loss is definitely TikTok’s gain.

There is an elephant in the room however, or should we say in the main chamber of the U.S congress.

Donagh Humphreys, Head of Social and Digital Innovation at Thinkhouse:

It’s hard to separate the current turmoil over Tiktok and wider geopolitical issues. American owned apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are banned in China. Coupled with tensions over the strategic alliance between China and Russia and tensions over China’s territorial claims on Taiwan it makes Tiktok an obvious tit for tat target for US political figures. The real task for brands is to evaluate if TikTok is what it purports to be; just an entertainment app? And are western governments ironically behaving like China, banning what it fears?

At Thinkhouse, we’ve watched the unstoppable rise of TikTok as a paid brand channel and key social platform since 2020 with innovative and impactful campaigns across such brands as Lucozade UK and Goodfellas. Upon recent analysis, currently over 20% of our Thinkhouse brand ad spend is being invested in TikTok, showing the considerable influence it has across the marketing mix and the devastating implications it might have for its loss.

Whether you believe this is simply political grandstanding or the panic is justified, this moment offers brands an opportunity to really look at the role of TikTok in their current digital marketing plan and ensure they are futureproofed for a possible widespread ban.

Here’s five key brand takeouts on the potential TikTok banning from the Thinkhouse social team:


If you’re relying too heavily on TikTok for the considerable reach and engagement it can provide, now might be the time to audit, analyse and rethink your strategy in a long-term sense. As part of strategic digital, we would always recommend not focusing too much on one platform or being too heavily reliant on one aspect of your ad spend, especially considering the current volatile state of the digital landscape.

However, ad Spend on TikTok’s main rival Instagram is 12 times that of the Chinese owned App. And Reels boasts significantly more available reach on a global scale against an all-adults audience.

Digital brands should also look at how the rise of YouTube Shorts (which is pushing hard to compete with TikTok) could even expand your reach with a massive in-built audience and explore emerging platforms for video placements such as Reddit and Twitch.


The right content - vibrant, save-worthy, informative, will win regardless of the platform. Your audience also won’t disappear just because TikTok is gone, they’ll simply move onto another platform. However, you need to make sure you’re giving them a compelling reason to find you elsewhere. Review how really in touch with your audience your content is. Make social listening a priority and comb through the conversations and insights, both macro and micro, happening about your brand online to ensure your content both reflects and answers this.


In the shakedown from this intense finger-pointing, it’s likely to be content creators who are affected the most, particularly those who have concentrated their monetisation efforts across TikTok. Now is the time to reflect upon the brand ambassadors and content creators who make up your influencer marketing strategy and look at how diversified and impactful these creators are and can be across other platforms.

Similarily, don’t follow niche TikTok ‘trends’ too closely, these are often created by TikTok to serve TikTok and can exist somewhat in a bubble of like-minded communities. Go beyond basic platform trends and observe wider cultural trends, movements and conversations to inspire and inform your influencer content strategy.


In our hyper sensitive, globally-connected digital advertising ecosystem, no significant action like one government banning a major social platform will ever exist in a bubble. There will be disruption and blowback with TikTok being regulated or or at worst banned. You need to be ready for the implications this will have for your brand too. There may even be pressure from followers and consumers to go with your competitors and exit the platform, or face the risk of a possible backlash.


Part of what makes TikTok so attractive to digital advertisers is how much cheaper it is compared to rival platforms. According to Vogue, cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM) on TikTok is about half that of Instagram Reels, a third less than Twitter and 62% less than Snapchat. TikTok also drives exceptionally high rates of engagement with Gen Z, a uniquely complicated demographic to reach. If TikTok goes, get ready for higher cost-per-metric rates across your social spend.