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TikTok's global head of agency insists expansion plans are still on track

TikTok’s weathered some serious turbulence over the last six months, as geopolitical pressures in the US and India increase. Its global head of agency insists expansion plans are still on track, however.

Having seen its future thrown into doubt because of geopolitical privacy concerns and left without a chief executive officer in the US, TikTok insists its international expansion plans are still in place.

The Bytedance-owned platform is exploring new markets and improving its best platform experience, the platform’s global head of agency tells The Drum.

“TikTok’s mission to inspire creativity and bring joy has propelled us to grow from strength to strength globally,” explains Lionel Sim. “We have and will continue to foster many meaningful partnerships with agencies, and as we move into 2021, we look forward to maintaining these friendly relationships.”

Full steam ahead

TikTok previously tapped VaynerMedia to amp up its marketing efforts on social media in the United States. Despite being banned in India, the second most populous country in the world, after the country’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology placed a blanket ban on mobile apps from Chinese companies, Asia Pacific still remains an important region for TikTok because of the sheer diversity of culture and the rise of short-form video content consumption in the region.

This is despite rivals like YouTube launching YouTube Shorts, a short-form video experience akin to TikTok, to capitalise on the ban of the app in India.

Sim notes that brand safety and data privacy are key concerns among agencies, but that these issues affect all the different platforms, not just TikTok. He stresses the safety of its users is key to TikTok’s mission and a top priority for its brand partners.

“We believe transparency about our practices is an important part of building trust and to that end, we opened our global Transparency and Accountability Centres for experts and lawmakers to see first-hand how we're working to build a safe and secure platform for our growing and diverse community,” he explains.

“We continue to comply with local laws and regulations in the various APAC markets to protect data privacy. Just last month, we released our global Transparency Report on the first half of 2020, that details how we create a safe and secure platform for our diverse community.”

Training days

Aside from brand safety and data privacy education, Sim says TikTok is also educating agencies on its offerings and how to leverage them effectively. He notes marketers tend to simply use content produced for social media platforms and repost it on TikTok – without understanding the need for a bespoke approach that considers music, hashtags or an active call-to-action.

The platform has taken a proactive approach here, setting up training programmes for media agencies, so that they better understand its capabilities for advertisers.

“We continue to empower and educate our agencies through a multitude of training programmes. In South East Asia for example, we launched TikTok Ads Academy, which is a recurring bi-monthly series of training webinars specially-crafted for media agencies and practitioners. This virtual training programme is designed to equip media agencies with the latest tips, skills and essential resources to run successful campaigns, as well as help their clients get the most out of their advertising with TikTok,” he says.

Sim points to the platform’s self-serve advertising solution, provided via the TikTok for Business platform. In addition to the usual ad setup options, with campaign and ad groups, targeting options, budget and schedule, the platform also includes video templates and auto-editing tools for marketers to create custom content that align with TikTok’s platform requirements.”

He adds: “Ultimately, we hope to create an environment where brands can comfortably experiment, innovate and test different ways to connect with their audience.”

Brand-friendly features

TikTok also works closely with its agency partners to develop innovative and diversified advertising products that to connect brands and their audiences, says Sim.

For example, augmented reality (AR) has become essential to adtech platforms, especially as AR-ready smartphones and other devices become more accessible around the world. By overlaying information or introducing games within a scene, AR can offer users more interactivity and options for engagement, potentially improving their experience with a particular brand.

Sim points to its Gamified Branded Effect AR feature as a prime example. “This effect allows brands to get users to use their facial expressions, body postures, or other movements to control and interact with branded gamified elements, in a sound-on experience,” says Sim.

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