TikTok is great at providing a non-stop stream of highly engaging content, attuned to your personal interests, based on its surprisingly good algorithmic matching process.
But do ads work within that environment? Short video clips make it easy to keep scrolling through, but that also relates to ads, right? When an ad comes up, you can easily swipe on by, so the actual engagement and response rate to TikTok ads might not be very good.
That’s what TikTok sought to determine with a new research report, partnering with neuromarketing research firm MediaScience to run a series of ad tests, with 343 participants, to measure engagement, recall and overall response, in comparison to competing platforms.
It is worth noting that this is a lab-controlled test - though based on the description, it does seem to largely replicate the regular in-app experience.
“Participants scrolled at their desired pace through either a TikTok experience or one of three competitive platform experiences. Each experience included 8 test ads each and participants were allowed to skip through ads and content as they normally would.”
MediaScience then used eye-tracking, heart rate monitoring, and GSR technology to measure how participants responded to each ad, to glean more insight into whether TikTok promotions actually work, and how resonant they can be.
Here’s what they found:
First off, the numbers for brand recall for TikTok ads were strong, even at limited view times.
“Brand recall increases the longer an ad is watched, but ads on TikTok see strong brand recall regardless of view duration. An ad on screen 6 seconds or less still delivered 38% of the recall compared to ads viewed 20 seconds or more.”
That could relate to how TikTok users engage with content more broadly, with short clips requiring more immediate attention, as you only have seconds to get the context of each. Maybe, that means TikTok users are more leaned in, and are therefore able to recall more from a shorter amount of exposure time.
That’s also reinforced in the broader engagement time stats, with TikTok noting that:
“Regardless of how long an ad stays on screen, TikTok draws early attention and physiological engagement in the first few seconds. In other words, ads on TikTok take less time to make an impact with their audience than similar ads on other platforms.”
TikTok also says that brand messaging was better received on TikTok than it was in other apps, with brands advertising on TikTok driving stronger brand perception than on other platforms.
Of course, this does also come down to approach, and the actual specifics of the ads displayed. If the TikTok ads are more aligned with organic TikTok content (as the platform has repeatedly advised) and they therefore feel more natural in the feed than disruptive promotions, then it seems unsurprising that users would be more open to such content, while the reflected glow of TikTok’s cool factor could also rub off at least somewhat on those brands that do get it right.
So there are other elements to consider, but the data here shows that TikTok users are open to promotional content, and the response and engagement rates are generally higher than other platforms, based, at least in part, on more focused in-app engagement.
How that translates to actual sales will also depend on a range of factors, including audience fit and approach. But the data here does show that for brands that take the time to learn how TikTok works, and which promotions resonate best, there can be significant benefit.
Maybe worth considering in your holiday marketing planning – you can check out TikTok’s full study notes and tips here.