The App you probably haven’t heard of

For those who thought TikTok was just a Keisha banger you may be surprised to hear it was the most-downloaded non-game app in the US in January 2019. “A new app!” you cry, but no, the short form video app has been popular for a few years. Sometimes even referred to as ‘Vine, Reincarnated’, TikTok consists of short form videos of its users singing, dancing, lip-synching and performing comedy skits.

Originally Launched in 2016 as ‘Douyin‘ in China, It rebranded to ‘TikTok’ for international markets and it merged with to build upon its western user base. ( was a ‘lip synching’ video app that was popular with artists like Ariana Grande).

Fast forward to 2019 and TikTok has over 500 million users worldwide and a few high profile celebrities have also joined the app too, namely Jimmy Fallon and Tony Hawk, initiating a few challenges.  Although do we need to hear Tony Hawk sing?

The audience is young with an average user age between 13 and 24.  The demise of Vine left a hole within the social media space and TikTok has picked up from where they left off, with short videos that are highly shareable and engaging – essentially the creation of ‘video memes’. A much clearer purpose and focus than Vine.

A unique aspect of TikTok is the ‘challenges’. Using hashtags, it’s an easy way to find content that is trending. All it takes is an interesting concept and a few of top creators to attract attention, encouraging more people to engage with the challenge.

This is an app fuelled by creativity and authored like never before.

Earlier adapter Jimmy Fallon initiated a number of challenges such as the ‘Tumbleweed Challenge’, encouraging people to ‘drop and roll’ like tumbleweed in time with western music. Users were incentivised to participate as a few videos would be featured on ‘The Tonight Show’, which likely drove more viewers. Videos created for the challenge have been watched over 26 million times.

Can brands get involved?

Guess launched the first-ever branded partnership with TikTok last year.  Their #InMyDenim hashtag challenge involved several “official” videos which featured a song by Bebe Rexha’s and then let the content creators do their thing.


Edward Park of Guess, said in a statement about TikTok:

“A cluttered brand space demands unique, engaging content and integrated participation. Our partnership with TikTok is an exciting evolution within our digital marketing strategy.”

Up until recently, this is how brands have gotten involved with TikTok, partnering with TikTok influencers to produce content that will raise awareness and encourage others to join the challenge.

However, the newness of the app has kept many brands as more observers than participants.

Ad units

As popularity begins to grow, TikTok has begun to quietly test out ad units in certain markets offering only IO buys in which an advertiser works directly with the platform to buy and place ads.

So far there appears to be four different ad formats available including in-feed video ads, brand takeover ads that appear when a user first opens the app during the takeover period, banner ads that encourage TikTok users to participate in brand-designed video challenges, and branded lenses similar to Snapchat that a TikTok user may select to use in their own videos.


The general style of video in TikTok is fast, loud and funny. Brands will need to be able to incorporate those three aspects into their ads to ensure they are relevant within the apps’ context and demographic.

It’s a great platform to connect with younger audiences but as the platform audience skews young, it may not be profitable for brands who are looking to sell higher ticket items, or informational products that need a lot of context.

FMCG brands could be some of the few brands that definitely could benefit from utilising influencers to get their products featured as a prop in a viral challenge, in turn encouraging users to buy the product.

Should advertisers divert budget from other sources in order to tap into TikToks youth appeal? – The jury is still out.  But as always, it’s about testing and learning with clear goals.

In the meantime, definitely check out the app on your morning tea, if nothing else it will give you a laugh and make you feel extremely old simultaneously.

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Clare Moyna

Clare Moyna

Content and Social Strategist at Redengine SCC

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