TikTok is excellent at providing an uninterrupted stream of highly engaging content tailored to your personal interests, based on the surprisingly good algorithmic matching process.

But do ads work within that environment? Short video clips make it easy to browse, but it also applies to ads, right? When an ad appears, you can easily switch through, so the actual engagement and response rate on TikTok ads may not be very good.


This is what TikTok tried to determine with a new research report, work with neuromarketing research firm MediaScience to conduct a series of 343 participant ad tests to measure engagement, recall, and overall response compared to competing platforms.

It is noteworthy that it is a laboratory-controlled test — although based on the description it seems to largely repeat the regular in-app experience.

Participants rolled at the desired pace through a TikTok experience or one of three competitive platform experiences. Each experience included 8 test ads, and participants were able to browse ads and content as usual.

MediaScience then used eye tracking, heart rate monitoring and GSR technology to measure how participants respond to each ad, to gain more insight into whether TikTok promotions really work and how resonant they can be.

Here is what they found:

First, TikTok brand recall numbers were strong, even during limited viewing times.

Trademark recall increases the longer an ad is viewed, but ads on TikTok see strong brand recall regardless of the duration of viewing. An ad on the screen of 6 seconds or less still returns 38% of the recall compared to ads viewed for 20 seconds or more.

This may be related to how TikTok users deal with content more broadly, with short tracks that need immediate attention, as you only have seconds to get the context of each one. This may mean that TikTok users are more inclined and therefore can remember more of a shorter exposure time.

It is also reinforced in the broader statistics of engagement time, with TikTok that:

No matter how long an ad stays on the screen, TikTok attracts early attention and physiological involvement in the first few seconds. In other words, ads on TikTok take less time to impact their audience than similar ads on other platforms. ”

TikTok Advertising Response Study

TikTok also says that brand messages are better received on TikTok than in other applications, with brands advertising on TikTok having a stronger brand perception than on other platforms.

TikTok Advertising Response Study

Of course, it also comes down to the approach and the actual details of the ads that are displayed. If the TikTok ads are more in line with organic TikTok content (as the platform has repeatedly suggested) and therefore feel more natural in the feed than disruptive promotions, it’s not surprising that users are more open to such content, while the reflected glow of the cool factor of TikTok can also turn off at least a little on the brands that 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, at least in part based on more focused in- app engagement.

How this can lead to actual sales also depends on a variety of factors, including the pace of the audience and the approach. But the data here does show that there can be significant benefits for brands that take the time to learn how TikTok works, and which promotions are best suited.

Maybe worth considering in your holiday marketing planning – you can check out the full study notes and tips from TikTok here.

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