The Ultimate Guide to TikTok Advertising

tiktok advertising guide

To the casual observer, TikTok is a social media platform best known for its funny videos, dance challenges, and lip-synced songs. However, if you look at it from a digital marketer’s perspective, you’ll realize it’s an advertising gold mine for brands.

The app is the fastest-growing social media platform in the world, boasting an army of young users who take enormous delight in watching and sharing great content. More critically, TikTok is currently less saturated with ads than most of the older social media platforms.

Perhaps it’s TikTok’s relative novelty or the fact that a great TikTok ad equals great content. Though the source of its appeal remains a mystery, TikTok advertising presents a unique opportunity to increase brand awareness and engagement, especially if Millennials and Gen Z are your core target audience.

Why you should advertise on TikTok

TikTok’s unprecedented growth is a testament to its addictive interface and content. With fans spanning across 150 countries worldwide, TikTok already has more monthly active users than LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Reddit.

It is currently the sixth most popular app globally, and younger people comprise the bulk of its users. For example, in the United States, over 60% of TikTok users are between the ages of 16 and 24. Yet, just because they’re on the younger side doesn’t mean they’re low on funds; more than 50% of TikTok users have an annual income of $75,000 or more. These stats should excite any digital marketer hoping to target Gen Z and younger Millennials.

Shoppable ads

TikTok recently announced a partnership with Shopify that will enable shoppable video content on the TikTok app. Users can now buy directly from video ads with a single click. The company also promised to develop other purchasing tools that will facilitate a user’s shopping experience. This is terrific news for marketers because conversion rates will skyrocket if buyers are guaranteed a seamless shopping experience.

High engagement rates

TikTok offers various formats for paid ads, and all of them have high click-through and engagement rates. For example, TopView ads can see click-through rates as high as 16%, while a Take Over ad format boasts up to 10% CTR.

Fast-growing user base

TikTok has notched some pretty decent figures since its release. However, it was the pandemic that supercharged TikTok’s growth and cemented its status as a top social media platform. The app’s 315 million downloads in Q1 of 2020 from the Apple and Android app stores ensured it enjoyed the best first quarter of any app ever. It even surpassed Facebook and the combined total of Twitter and YouTube downloads in the same period.

Despite the competition’s significant head start, TikTok was already the seventh-most downloaded app of the 2010s. Half of the total two billion worldwide downloads happened in the past two years, indicating its popularity has just begun to soar. Marketers will also be excited to learn that adult users (not just teens) increasingly find TikTok appealing. The number of monthly adult users in the United States grew by 550% between 2017 and 2019.

Types of TikTok ads

TikTok has automated advertising platform tools similar to those found in the Facebook Ad Manager. The platform allows users to automate the process of creating, delivering, and optimizing advertising content while also providing insight into the ad campaigns’ performance. 

Additionally, brands can choose from various creative ad formats depending on what will best suit their target audience. Below are descriptions of TikTok’s five ad types and their best use cases:

TopView Ads

TopView ads are a relatively new advertising option on TikTok. The ads appear on TikTok’s most valuable real estate—the top of the For You page—and, more critically, users are not bombarded with TopView Ads as soon as they open their app. The video ad appears as the first in-feed post three seconds after opening the app.

Brand Takeover

Brand Takeover Ads appear as soon as you open your TikTok app. If you’re using this ad format for your business, your viewers will see a full-screen video of your advertising message while their app is loading. Although users may find this ad format intrusive, Brand Takeover Ads remain one of the best ways to increase brand awareness and drive sales through TikTok. The ads can also appear as videos, GIFs, or still images on the For You page. You can even include a clickable link that will send users to your landing page or an in-app Hashtag Challenge.

In-Feed Ad

As the name implies, In-Feed Ads appear between user videos on the For You page. The ads are quite similar to the ones that pop up when scrolling through Instagram stories. In-feed Ads have the unique advantage of allowing advertisers to include a CTA in their ad videos. However, like any other video on the For You page, users can mindlessly scroll past, only giving you three seconds or less to catch their attention.

Branded hashtag challenge

If your brand already has a moderate following on TikTok, a branded hashtag challenge can be an excellent way to increase brand awareness. Branded challenges are similar to regular hashtag challenges, but in addition to the content your followers generate, other people who see the ads can also participate.

When users click on a branded hashtag, they are redirected to your brand’s landing page on TikTok. There, they’ll see the link to your business website and other popular TikTok video uploads with the same hashtag. If you desire maximum exposure, you can pay up to $150,000 for space on TikTok’s Discover banner. If you cannot afford such hefty sums, you can increase your exposure by partnering with influencers in your niche.

Branded Effect

TikTok’s Branded Effects allow advertisers to design custom AR filters, lenses, and shareable stickers on the TikTok app, which users can then share. The feature is quite similar to Snapchat’s branded lenses. Branded Effects can stay live for up to 10 days and are a useful way to increase engagement.

How brands use TikTok ads for marketing

Like any other platform, it’s vital to set your marketing goals before advertising on TikTok. Having specific objectives will inform your marketing strategy and allow you to accurately measure campaign success using the right parameters. Below are some of the goals that brands can build their TikTok ad campaigns around:

  • Promoting new products
  • Growing your follower count
  • Promoting new updates
  • Amassing new contacts for your email or SMS lists
  • Going viral with TikTok challenges

How to create TikTok ads

Depending on the type of ad campaign you want to launch, creating an ad may require using the self-service platform or speaking to a TikTok ad manager. The steps outlined below apply to ad types like In-feed Video Ads, which you can create entirely on your own.

Create a TikTok Ads Account

You’ll need an ad account to launch your first ad on TikTok. To create an account, visit the TikTok for Business landing page and fill in the required details. Afterward, click Sign Up to register your ad account.

Create a TikTok campaign

TikTok has an ad structure that all advertisers must follow—you must first create a campaign and ad group before building an ad. To create a campaign, go to the Campaign tab on the Ads Manager page and click Create. You’ll then choose one of the three objectives that align best with your marketing goals.

Set Your TikTok Ad Placements, Details, and Targeting

Once you create a campaign, TikTok automatically moves you into the ad group section. Here, you’ll choose your targeting placement, promotion type, audience targets, and other details. If you’re a TikTok newbie, we recommend using automatic placement to start. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can base your targeting on parameters such as location, age, gender, etc.

Control Your TikTok Ad Spend, Duration, and Goals

TikTok Ads can get very expensive if you do not control your spending limit. You have the option of choosing a daily budget or lifetime budget depending on how much you wish to spend.

Design Your Ad Using TikTok’s Video Creation Kit

TikTok has amazing video creation tools users can leverage to create the right content for their audience. Just remember that your images or videos must meet predetermined specifications before you can launch a campaign on the platform. 

Optimize Your TikTok ads

TikTok’s automated creative optimization feature continually tests ads and measures their effectiveness. This feature is quite useful if you’re just starting with TikTok ads. Alternatively, you can optimize your ads manually with the help of tools like the TikTok Pixel. The TikTok Pixel allows you to create a custom audience for your ads and leverage customer behavior on your website to optimize your TikTok ads.

How to analyze TikTok ad performance

Measuring performance is critical to the success of any ad campaign. Fortunately, TikTok offers an analytics feature that provides valuable data about your ad campaign’s performance. However, you must switch to a Pro account before you can access TikTok Analytics, and your ad has to be live for at least seven days before you can access relevant data and insights on the Analytics page.

Get more granular details on the Campaign page

TikTok’s Campaign Page provides marketers all the relevant details they need to know about their ads’ performance. You’ll have access to key metrics such as engagement, views, audience breakdowns, and engagement rate. These statistics are key to optimizing and assessing performance.

Get the big picture on your TikTok Ads Dashboard

If you’re keen to access your ad’s performance at a glance, head to your Ads Dashboard. Here, you’ll find:

  • The current state of your ad videos and overall campaign
  • Important metrics such as overall CPC, CPM, CPA, CTR, etc.
  • Your current ad spend

You can also export the CSV file to take a closer look at your ad performance and manipulate the data.

Examples of great TikTok ads

Hundreds of large corporations and small businesses alike have used TikTok to market their brands. Below are several well-thought-out TikTok ads and what makes each of them outstanding:

Kroger’s #TransformUrDorm campaign

Kroger’s campaign targeted college students who were returning to school. The company leveraged the recently introduced shoppable ads, which allowed users to shop their dorm supplies directly from the app. They also made great use of influencers who had a large Gen Z following and recorded outstanding results.


My dorm lookin fire now 😝🔥 Thanks Kroger! #transformurdorm #ad #foryou #trend

♬ original sound – Joey Klaasen

Guess Jeans’ #InMyDenim

The #InMyDenim challenge remains one of the most iconic TikTok challenges to date. The brand took advantage of two ad types on TikTok: Hashtag Challenge and Brand Takeover. The Brand Takeover ad featured a clickable link that redirected users to the Hashtag Challenge to further increase its reach. At the end of the first week of the campaign, the videos had racked up more than 10.5 million views, and Guess Jeans’ TikTok page gained over 12,000 new followers.


Don’t you wish getting ready was this easy? 😂❤️🔥 ##inmydenim ##sponsored @guess

♬ #inmydenim I’m a Mess – Bebe Rexha

Zalora’s Fashion Festival

Zalora is a major Australian fashion brand that leveraged TikTok ads to increase brand awareness. The brand promoted its online shopping event through a TikTok challenge video that required participants to flash a “Z” signal before changing their outfits. The campaign’s goal was to drive new app installs.

Too Faced’s video ads 

Too Faced promoted their “Lip Injection Extreme” by creating a compelling five-second video that featured its signature bright colors and socially inclusive text. The video genuinely embodied the brand’s happy and colorful vibe, and the CTA (“Plump, fill, and lift like never before with our Lip Injection Lip Gloss”) was as straightforward as it gets. 


We’ll take one of every shade @laurieelle 🙋‍♀️ Plump, fill, and lift like never before with our Lip Injection Lip Gloss!! ##toofaced ##fyp ##beautytok

♬ MOMENTS IN LIFE – Turreekk

TikTok advertising best practices

Below are a few ways to increase the effectiveness of your TikTok marketing campaigns.

Use influencers wisely

TikTok has two categories of influencers: verified and unverified. If you wish to create a viral ad campaign, having a verified influencer on your side can be a great asset. However, the unverified influencers can still be of great help if they have strong engagement with their followers. You can access the list of TikTok influencers in your niche under Users

Before starting a partnership with an influencer, conduct some research to determine if they’ll be a good fit for your brand. Follow them for a while and observe their engagement, and check out their old videos.

Use Smart Video

TikTok Smart Video is an AI-driven video editing tool that automatically analyzes the videos and chooses clips and background music to make them better. If you want a seamless (yet cost-effective) video editing experience, Smart Video is the way to go.

Make use of remarketing campaigns

Remarketing is an effective way to drive better ROI because it ensures your prospects are constantly exposed to your ads, encouraging them to take action. It’s an excellent tactic for connecting and engaging with people who have already shown interest in your brand. TikTok allows you to remarket by creating custom audiences based on website traffic, engagement, app activity, and customer data files.

Use UTMs for tracking

If you’re running TikTok ads to acquire more website traffic, UTMs (Urchin Tracking Module) can tell you exactly how much traffic TikTok is sending your way. Use the UTMs to track your campaign performance in Google Analytics and determine which campaigns need to be optimized. Using UTMs is crucial for getting accurate data because ad platforms are known to overstate their conversion figures.


TikTok Ads can be an effective way for you to increase brand awareness, generate leads, and earn more revenue for your brand. However, you have to be super creative with your ads and Hashtag Challenges to get the best results. TikTok users are not easily impressed. 

Furthermore, marketers need to know that TikTok’s paid advertising platform does not come cheap. If your total budget is under five to six figures, you may want to explore influencer marketing or other social media advertising options. That being said, TikTok’s stratospheric growth and popularity with younger users could be worth the investment for brands with deep pockets.

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