3 happy teen girls taking selfie for tiktok advertising

Almost every established brand has explored advertising channels on popular social media networks like Facebook and Instagram. And now more brands are taking advantage of the social media phenomenon that continues to acquire new users at a breathtakingly rapid pace: TikTok. This guide provides an overview of TikTok advertising from A to Z. Take a deep dive into the appeal of TikTok as well as the specifics of its advertising platform to learn if it’s a viable marketing channel for your brand.

TikTok Features 101

TikTok is a video-based social media platform that is somewhat similar to the defunct Vine. When recorded within the app, each video can be up to 15 seconds long. Users have the ability to string together up to four clips for a total runtime of one minute. These restrictions apply only to videos recorded within the app interface — when selected from local storage, users can upload videos that exceed one minute, but will then be prompted to trim the clip.

However, it’s easy to record TikTok videos from within the app due to the expansive audio-related features available. Creators may choose from both soundtracks and audio files. Dancing videos are incredibly popular on TikTok because of the easy accessibility of copyrighted songs. However, creators also often make use of general audio files, such as sound effects or voiceovers for comedy, skits and more as well as use their original audio.

Overall, you can think of TikTok as a fast-paced social media platform that revolves around short clips. As such, when thinking about advertising, brands should be focused on quick and easy ads that get the point across in just a few seconds. Even if the ad is longer in length, it’s imperative that the first few seconds be attention-grabbing so that users don’t simply tune out and move onto a more interesting video further down in their feeds. Whereas blatant ads might fly on other social media platforms, they simply don’t work on TikTok: Users are there for entertainment, and if your brand isn’t entertaining them, they won’t pay you any attention.

Why Advertise on TikTok?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that TikTok is no longer a niche social media platform with a limited user base. The app has been downloaded 2.6 billion times from the App Store and Google Play as of December 2020. As for usage, according to Business of Apps, the average TikTok user spends about 45 minutes on the platform every day.

Drilling down, TikTok has significant market penetration for Gen Z. As of June 2020, in the US, teens (10-19) accounted for just under a third of TikTok’s usage. Users aged 20-29 took up roughly another third of the user base. So, the vast majority of the TikTok user base is in fact on the younger side. Adult usage is also steadily growing, as is commonplace with most social media platforms: The youth drive growth, and the adults catch onto the trend once it’s popular.

In terms of gender, according to Statista, just under 60 percent of users are female. Just above 40 percent are male. This split favors females more than other social networks. For example, on Facebook, 56 percent of users are male. Although TikTok does provide the ability to show ads to just one specific gender, certain ads display to all users regardless of gender. That means it’s important for your brand to keep the female demographic skew in mind.

Types of TikTok Advertising

TikTok offers a variety of advertising options depending on what your brand is trying to accomplish. You can start with the one that seems like the best fit for you, or use a combination of several.

In-Feed Video Ads

In-feed video ads are the native form of TikTok advertising. They play in between user-created TikTok videos. In-feed video ads are billed on a traditional CPM basis. Advertisers generally report attractive CPMs through TikTok. However, the individual targeting options you select and the effectiveness of your video ad will ultimately determine how much your brand ends up paying for each conversion result. At this time, in-feed video ads are the only advertising option available for self-serve advertisers. To unlock the rest of the TikTok advertising options for your brand, submit a partnership query.

Branded Hashtag Challenge

Branded hashtag challenges refer to a brand asking users to create a video, then upload that video with a certain hashtag. Creators are enticed to take part in branded hashtag challenges because branded hashtag challenge videos are promoted near the top of the Discovery page. If a creator uploads a popular video in this category, they have the opportunity to gain easy exposure for their profile, even if they are relatively unknown otherwise.

Brand Takeover Ads

Brand takeover ads are short three- to five-second videos that play immediately when a user opens the app. Although these ads may be seen as intrusive by some users, brands get the opportunity to guarantee that users are paying attention to their ads no matter what.

TopView Ads

TopView ads are similar to brand takeovers, except the ads do not play immediately when the app opens. Instead, they play at a random time when the user begins scrolling through their feed. And, TopView ads may be up to 60 seconds in length. Although, just because a TopView ad can be 60 seconds, doesn’t mean that it necessarily should be.

Branded Effects

Similar to Instagram’s AR filters, branded effects consist of custom stickers, AR filters and lenses that creators can add to their videos. In general, the more creative a branded effect is, the more likely it is to be used. Branded effects give your brand the unique opportunity to break free from traditional forms of advertising — users won’t instinctively say oh, that’s an ad.

Influencer Marketing

Like all other social media platforms, your brand has the opportunity to link up with individual TikTok influencers to create custom advertising campaigns. Influencer partnerships attract a lot of attention to your brand on TikTok.

Creating Your First In-Stream TikTok Ad

As you go through the TikTok ad setup, you’ll be prompted to select different parameters depending on how you want your ad to be displayed. Most parameters, such as the avatar you use in conjunction with the ad, depend on the ad your brand chooses to run.

Traffic vs. Video Views vs. App Installs

Like other social media platforms, TikTok allows you to choose which type of conversion result your brand is most interested in. Your ad will be shown to different types of users depending on which parameter you select.

  • Choose traffic for ads that require further conversion actions on your website.
  • Choose video views for brand exposure and awareness.
  • Choose app installs to target mobile users only and increase the number of downloads to your mobile app.


Like Facebook and other platforms, TikTok allows you to input select audiences to advertise to. You may also exclude certain audiences. For example, you may choose to include website visitors who have looked at a certain product, but exclude website visitors who ended up making the purchase.


TikTok allows you to fine-tune your ad targeting by various interest and behavior types. For example, you may choose to target users who are interested in a certain sport or type of music.

Bid Control

You may set a maximum amount to bid for each click. Along with the daily budget option, bid control allows you to control costs easily. However, keep in mind that your ads may not display if your desired cost-per-click is too low. And, the users that your ad is shown to may be affected depending on how much you’re willing to pay for each click.

Overall, getting started with in-stream TikTok ads is nearly identical to every other social media platform. Just keep in mind TikTok’s unique content format and user base demographic using the guidelines above to get the most bang for your buck and give yourself the highest chances of running a successful campaign.