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  • MaryGrace Lerin

TikTok Releases New Research on How Users Respond to Ads on the App

Based on its remarkably effective algorithmic matching technique, TikTok is great at presenting a never-ending stream of fascinating content that is tailored to your own interests.

But, in that context, do advertisements work? Short video segments make it easy to keep scrolling, but isn't that also true of advertisements? Because you may simply swipe past an ad when it appears, the actual engagement and reaction rate to TikTok commercials may be low.

Yet, is that actually the case?

In a recent research report, TikTok partnered with neuromarketing research firm MediaScience to conduct a series of ad tests with 343 people to analyze engagement, recall, and overall response in comparison to other platforms.

It's important to note that this is a lab-controlled test, but the description suggests that it closely resembles the typical in-app experience.

“Participants scrolled at their desired pace through either a TikTok experience or one of three competitive platform experiences. Each experience included 8 test ads each and participants were allowed to skip through ads and content as they normally would.”

To learn more about whether TikTok promotions work and how impactful they can be, MediaScience used eye-tracking, heart-rate monitoring, and GSR technology to track how participants responded to each ad.

Here's what they discovered:

To begin with, even with limited view times, TikTok advertising had a high level of brand recall.

“Brand recall increases the longer an ad is watched, but ads on TikTok see strong brand recall regardless of view duration. An ad on screen 6 seconds or less still delivered 38% of the recall compared to ads viewed 20 seconds or more.”

That could be related to how TikTok users interact with media in general, with short clips needing more rapid attention because you only have a few seconds to understand each one. Perhaps this indicates that TikTok users are more focused, allowing them to recall more information in a shorter amount of time.

This is echoed in TikTok's broader engagement time statistics, which state:

“Regardless of how long an ad stays on screen, TikTok draws early attention and physiological engagement in the first few seconds. In other words, ads on TikTok take less time to make an impact with their audience than similar ads on other platforms.”

Brand messaging was also taken more seriously on TikTok than in other platforms, according to TikTok, with brands advertising on TikTok delivering greater brand perception than on other channels.

Of course, the method as well as the specifics of the ads displayed play a role. If TikTok advertisement is more coordinated with organic TikTok content (as the platform has frequently advocated), and so appear more natural in the feed than intrusive promos, it seems natural that viewers will be more receptive to such material, while the reflected glow of TikTok's cool factor might also rub off on those businesses that get it right.

So there are many factors to take into account, but the data reveals that TikTok users are receptive to promotional content, and reaction and engagement rates are usually greater than on other platforms, thanks to more focused in-app engagement, at least in part.

A variety of criteria, including audience fit and approach, will determine how this translates to actual sales. However, the research shows that there might be huge benefits for marketers who take the time to discover how TikTok works and which promos resonate best.

TikTok's full study notes and advice can be found here, and may be worth considering in your holiday marketing strategy.

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