The marketing iconoclast says brands are missing the boat on TikTok – WARC’s Geoffrey Precourt was there to hear him.
“I like to hear myself talk too much to share the stage,” Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, admitted to an audience at Advertising Week New York 2019. But, on that occasion, a “fireside chat” with TikTok’s vice president of global partnerships gave him the occasion to rant. And Vaynerchuk is always good for a rant.
Gary Vee’s Advertising Week point of passion: Advertisers and their agencies once were foolishly overlooking not just the current audience size but the potential of the China-based social medium.
“We've seen this rodeo before…. I continue to be fascinated by dismissal by the Madison Avenue corporate environment to not strike when it's hot. I view TikTok no differently than a top TV show. When ‘Seinfeld' was number one, you ran ads on the show. When it was gone, you didn’t.
“But, for some reason, with social networks, the industry has this inherent need to see what's going to happen forever… The biggest value add I can bring here is that we have to start looking at these platforms like shows, not like channels.”
And Vanyerchuk has no patience for too much patience: “For me, there is no better place to go to sell to Gen Z than TikTok—right this second—, because the scale of attention at that age level is remarkable…., I'm fascinated how people can miss hundreds of millions of people who are using something—how we, as an industry, can dismiss that.
“Whether TikTok goes on to become the establishment in social media—like Instagram—or if it becomes another Socialcam [a lapsed mobile-video app that lasted between 2011 and 2015] or Vine [2013-’17] is completely irrelevant.”
At a comparable stage of its development, Vaynerchuk pointed out, “Instagram was an app that helped photographers take better photos. Every platform it evolves and the market should take advantage of that.
“I'm obsessed with the notion of, ‘How do I bring the most value in anything I do?’ When people in the media industry come to me and ask, ‘How do I run ads on TikTok? I tell them, ‘It’s like every other platform goes: You need to give them a few minutes to figure out how they're going to build their ad product. And the same for the creative field.”
The marketing iconoclast proposed one rationale for the recent rise in popularity for the Chinese social platform: “There's a lot of political and social unrest in the world. Escapism and a little bit of like fun has something to do with TikTok’s growth.”
“There's always this time when these platforms get so big with so much attention that there's not enough content to fill it, LinkedIn is going through the same thing. And that creates a scenario where you can get an incredible amount of awareness and reach.... It’s reminiscent of what I saw Twitter between 2006 and 2008: You were able to get so many more followers because everybody followed everybody else. And you were able to get a lot of awareness.
“We all chase awareness but the industry has been overpricing potential reach with GRPs and programmatic. TikTok is a platform that skews to a certain demo that may not match everybody. But it has the potentially to match everybody. Great awareness that is very difficult to achieve.”
This is one big game of supply and demand of content on one side and the attention on the other. And it goes really fast, until the attention doesn't match the amount of output. It's a game that’s goes back to back to television and has been played over and over again. Look at email marketing: Open rates for email between 1996 and 1999 had scary numbers— 80% to 90% open rates.”
Why? “Because nobody was emailing,” Vanyerchuk replied. “Remember how we read every fucking email? And, in 2009, I was yelling about this and Facebook. The organic reach of those pages was remarkable.”
For every new platform—TikTok today, Instagram and Facebook in the past—“there's a crescendo— tipping point… that’s a land grab.
It's like buying up beachfront property in Malibu: “Somebody did that and eventually it got more expensive.”
For marketers, “these are incredible times” and shame on those “waiting for it to be real—for some reporting mechanism … to justify their spend on it. TikTok is no different than podcast pre-roll. Today, there's no confusion that there is an enormous amount of people listening to podcasts. But because the reporting isn't in place yet, people don't do buy ads.
“That's why entrepreneurs and startups always grow, because big companies trade on fake metrics and small companies trade on truth.
“I'm an entrepreneur and I love this space… It will play out over time. But every second you wait for that to happen, understand that the underpriced attention will become more expensive.”