The Youth Lab


TikTok, the unofficial youth saviour of lockdown living, is officially courting brands and advertisers. It’s also officially made its debut in Kantar’s annual BrandZ list (it placed 79th in the Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands report - worth $16.9bn). As we noted in our piece on TikTok, it has grown substantially amid the coronavirus pandemic. It hit 2 billion downloads in March 2020 where the app saw a 27% increase in the first 23 days of March compared to February with 6.2 million downloads. In Ireland, TikTok account ownership stands at 6% but 43% of account owners use it daily. This represents over 90,000 Irish adults aged 15+ (as of 2019). (Note: these Irish figures are from December and we are expecting an enormous jump in Irish account figures once these are updated. Ownership is also skewing a lot younger).

TikTok has become central to youth culture. With the news of TikTok’s new ‘TikTok for Business’ platform this 52INSIGHTS takes a fresh look at how the app is currently driving creativity and disruption..


Last week TikTok hit adland with the news that its introduced a TikTok for Business platform - essentially enabling more ad integration and advancing marketing solutions for brands on the platform.

What does TikTok for Business enable advertisers to do? Various ad formats - TopView (the ad that appears when you first launch the app), Brand Takeovers, In-Feed Videos, Hashtag Challenges and Branded Effects.

“Brand Takeovers are the three to five-second ads that can be either a video or image. In-Feed Videos can be up to 60 seconds in length and run with the sound on. Hashtag Challenges allow brands to participate in the user community by inviting TikTok users to create content around a hashtag of their choice. This includes Hashtag Plus, which also adds a shopping feature to this experience.” Techcrunch

Branded Effects also allow brands to be present more directly in the content creation experience - it enables a brand or product to be added to a video in a 2D, 3D or now AR format (either the foreground or background of a video).

What does TikTok for Business mean for marketers? In its essence TikTok is aiming to shift from a more experimental arena to a more controlled advertising space like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.

What’s different? Its creative community environment. TikTok is encouraging marketers to become more a part of the TikTok community and stay true to the essence of the platform and add value to the user experience, rather than being removed and separate from it.

“The way brands are showing up on TikTok is different to other social media like Instagram. They're adapting to the creativity and versatility of TikTok, which is what it was created for, rather than having ads just thrown in your face the whole time. I haven't come across any sponsored content on my FYP (for you) page, only from TikTokers that I follow, which is great because it keeps original, personalised content coming my way when I'm on there.” James, 26, Ireland

Understanding the creative nuances of the platform is crucial for advertisers seeking to achieve breakthrough success. The ultimate goal/benchmark for success could, for example, be to see the TikTok community making their own versions of your TikTok campaign. The launch campaign for TikTok for Business, ‘Don’t Make Ads’ draws on this differentiator, encouraging adland to make TikToks in a different way than they make ads.

It's also noteworthy that the best TikTok content has started to be lifted from TikTok and spread on to other channels - especially Instagram.


Recent Facebook Ad Boycotts are a timely reminder of the fact that, with many of these digital platforms, there are ethical minefields to navigate. TikTok - generally noted to be a bit renegade - is not immune to these kinds of debates.

  • Data - it appears TikTok is capturing more data than its competitors. See this thread.
  • Censorship - TikTok has been accused of censorship on a multitude of occasions, including around the Hong Kong protests (TikTok has Chinese origins).
  • The Algorithm - users have debated long and hard about the TikTok algorithm and how it favours certain types of content. You can read more about it here.

Despite these relevant ethical considerations, TikTok is widely celebrated. From a broad digital landscape perspective, it has really driven the emergence of more positive sentiment around social media - actually helping young people to cope in anxiety-driving environments by rejecting stylised perfection and making the online world more fun. It has cemented itself into global pop culture mainstream as a joyous and educational platform.

Below is a list of some of our favourite TikToks and TikTokers of late.


If you haven’t started paying attention to TikTok - now is the time.

TikTok is not a social network and it’s not a social messaging service. What it actually is has been debated widely - from a lip synching platform to a video creation tool. Simply put, young people are using it to make and share short videos. But, from a platform distinction perspective it’s important to recognise that it’s different, and as such needs to be treated differently.

Branded content should mirror the usual TikTok style. This means a move away from processed perfection. The more you can make your ad look like a piece of UGC the better it will land with the audience.

Think ‘community’ first. Don’t be afraid to participate in the trends and add value to them in fun, creative ways.

Don’t look at Creators follower count when you’re looking to partner with someone, look at the style of content they create. Find a creator that suits your brand (and your brand’s TikTok niche) rather than one that will get you the most reach.

Read some more nice TikTok tips from PR Week here.

See also


TikTok generated "the most downloads for any app ever in a quarter" in Q1 2020.


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