TikTok: 3 tips for ads (and content)

The KPI is the milliseconds of views that feed the savvy algorithm

To start, the core proposition of this new kid in town, TikTok, is to entertain with short-form videos. It's considered ‘social,’ in reality, TikTok is anything but social. 

It's an outreach platform with a focus on reach. Driven by a supersmart state-of-the-art algorithm. The KPI is the milliseconds of views that feed the algorithm. The longer users view your content, the higher it pops up in the algorithm.

The difference between an ad and regular content is the media push. The content assets themselves don’t differ that much. What goes for the ads also goes for regular (brand) content.  

Credits where credits are due, WARC, Christopher Clafllin, and TikTok for business; check the last paragraph.


To start… TikTok content requirements

Below you find five tips and tricks to nail TikTok content. Yet, first and foremost, your content just has to be good. Good content trends and gets seen. Period.

  • It has to be entertaining
  • It has to be shareable
  • It has to be fast

And always, always focus on the viewer first. I can't emphasize this enough. 


Leading by example

There are three brands that are doing a great job with ads and content.  

  • Air Up: their last posts are from the holiday season. Spot on, entertaining, and catchy from the first moment. Next to this, the audience really embraces their product, demonstrated by 820,4M tiktoks with #airup
  • ESPN: they just rock it with over 3,0B likes. They tap into the emotion of sports, resulting in entertaining, emotional sports-related content. Not a word about getting the subscription. Honestly, I haven't seen their ads. 
  • Politie Amsterdam: contentwise, they get it with over 10,0M likes for their tiktoks. They tap into the questions by the users brought in an entertaining and educational way; you gotta love police officer Kim vd Weij

If you have any great outstanding examples, please let me know. As I didn't find any other brands that raise the TikTok content bar. 

How not to do it

Leading by example on how not to do it: GAP on TikTok. ‘That’s what happens if you put boomers in charge of social ;)) 

Click the link for Christoper Claflin excellent explanation of what's wrong with GAPs tiktoks. 


Why it matters

If you want reach and eyeballs, you have to know how to play the TikTok game. Just copy-paste the format for social ads and optimizing for TikTok will not do the job. Demonstrated and proven by the enormous amount of subpar content pushed by brands.

You need to know these five things to create a catchy ad. For some, these are no-brainers; for others, these a need-to-knows before jumping on the TikTok bandwagon. 

  1. Maximize the first 3 seconds
  2. Audio: catchy tunes and earworms
  3. Subtle branding: don’t use a big logo
  4. Copy: use it wisely
  5. Don’t forget your CTA display card


1. Maximize the first 3 seconds

As TikTok is all about milliseconds of views, use the goldfish attention span wisely. Put the most important elements of your ad in the first three seconds. Maybe even the first half second. Catch the attention right away; no one has the patience and scrolls through immediately if it’s not catchy.

Surprise: that’s not your huge logo; see my point about subtle branding. And don't start with an intro to say ‘hiiiii’ or to introduce yourself. What works best? Unfortunately, there’s no golden script. Rule of thumb: would you yourself watch this? Is it entertaining, catchy, and keeps your attention?

If you do nail it, according to TikTok’s 2021 “Creative Guide: Driving Brand Equity” (source in the credits)

  • + 29% in brand awareness
  • + 12% purchase intent


2. Audio: catchy tunes and earworms

Contrary to Instagram content, you design TikTok content for ‘sound on’. It helps you to retain the user’s attention and makes them stick around. 

For likeability and entertainment, you can use recognizable music to develop a strong connection. 68% said they are more likely to recognize a brand if the ad has music they like.

Tip: Maybe you should even think about the music first and the script second…


3. Subtle branding: don’t use a big logo

Based on research, a huge logo to open the ad will make the users skip your ad immediately. Do I need to say more?

Yes, you do display your logo to reveal the sender. Yet do it subtly and nuanced. Not big and loud in your face. 

Remember: nobody likes to be marketed.


4. Copy: use it wisely

Do use text in your ad. However, choose wisely what, when, and where to place the copy.

  • When you get people to read, you automatically capture their attention and focus
  • Use text to repeat your main points and what you want your users to take away from the ad
  • The rule of thumb is to use five to ten words per second. It’s ad copy, not a caption

Nothing more, nothing less.


5. Don’t forget your CTA display card

This is the butt-ugly card at the end of your ad. It’s amazing to drive purchases in the lower funnel. I’m just astonished by the number of ads without this CTA card. Making money with TikTok means you need to drive conversion by making sales. 

This CTA card is also great for (source in the credits)

  • +45% recall
  • +19% likeability
  • +9% consideration

Use it to your advantage.


Some final words

TikTok is amazing. Not only Gen Z and some Millennials, even the ‘older’ generations (like me) are also discovering this platform. The algorithm is savvy and not like any other. The app sucks you in, and before you know it, you’re down the rabbit hole. And I absolutely love it. It's more than funny dances and crazy challenges. It's an inspiration; it's feeding my creativity; it's opening my eyes to a whole new world. 

For brands, nailing the TikTok content and ads is damn difficult. I suggest hanging around in the app for a few weeks to discover the unique heartbeat. Be amazing, be inspired, and get entertained and educated. And then get the specialized pros on board to create the ad.



All credits to WARC. I shamelessly copy-paste-edited their insights

WARC is the best-kept secret for strategists, marketers, and content people. My go-to source for insights, data, and inspiration on what’s happening in the world. 

 Also, check out Chrisopher Claflin; he explains TikTok for boomers.  

And don't forget to check TikTok for business for more insights and research.


Fleur Willemijn van Beinum

TikTok is amazing. Not only Gen Z and some Millennials, even the “older” generations are also discovering this platform

Fleur Willemijn van Beinum