Brands around the world are starting to seriously evaluate the potential of TikTok as an advertising channel, although measurement and brand safety issues may be stumbling blocks, according to a new WARC report.

The WARC Trend Snapshot: TikTok notes how Douyin, the Chinese version of the app has already seen a significant level of brand activity from both local and international brands; and since TikTok began testing advertising at a global level in January 2019, several youth-focused brands have been quick to trial the platform.

So far, however, budget allocation remains low and PR buzz-generation the key signifier of success.

The primary appeal of TikTok for advertisers is “neomania”, according to James Whatley, Strategy Partner at Digitas.

“TikTok today is what Snapchat was in 2012, Vine in 2013, and Instagram every year thereafter,” he told WARC.

The most important difference, said Whatley, is the “sheer and absolute fun” of the creativity on offer in the form of user-generated content. “It’s a near full-time job to keep on top of it,” he added.

But the large numbers of teens and children using TikTok poses its own challenges – especially for brands operating in an age-restricted regulatory environment, including alcoholic beverages and gambling – while the AI-driven approach to serving content can limit the opportunity to safeguard brands from inappropriate content.

Even for those brands agreeing brand safety parameters with agencies and app partners, and launching campaigns on TikTok, the third-party measurement and verification systems are highly inadequate compared to those offered by other social media companies, the Snapshot observes.

TikTok currently only operates in its standalone mobile video app guise, but commentators expect it to follow in the footsteps of other Chinese digital platforms by adding e-commerce functionality and enabling users to click through from videos to purchase products.

Yet TikTok’s most long-lasting legacy may be in becoming the first Chinese media owner to truly change the mobile usage and content consumption habits at a global level, the Snapshot suggests: ushering in new user expectations of shorter video experiences, a fresh take on the idea of social media influencers, and the beginnings of a Chinese ascendency in the media space.

Elsewhere, TikTok owner Bytedance is set to launch a music-streaming app aimed at overseas markets, according to the South China Morning Post.

Sourced from WARC