Are TikTok agencies of record here to stay?
Within just a matter of weeks, both Stanley and RoC appointed TikTok agencies of record—and Brendan Gahan, partner and chief social officer at creative agency Mekanism, isn’t surprised by this pattern. Rather, he views it as a symptom of an “increasingly fractured” social media landscape and a combination of increased production needs and “platform nuances” unique to TikTok, said.
“Even within TikTok, there’s content; there’s TikTok Live, which is a whole other dynamic; and then if you want to go even deeper, there’s [TikTok] Shop,” Gahan said. “And when you layer on keeping up with trends and these other nuances, the platform in itself is so vast, and some form of expertise goes a long way.”
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To Gahan, a brand bringing on an agency specializing in TikTok “can make a lot of sense” based on the brand’s “priorities, resources and bandwidth,” he said. But “going with a TikTok agency [of record] isn’t a surefire way to be successful” on the platform, Gahan added. Instead, he attributes success on the platform to how well the brand’s content aligns with the platform’s “make TikToks, not ads” mantra—whether that content is produced in-house, by a broader social media agency or by a TikTok agency of record.
On the other hand, Kenny Gold, managing director and head of social, content and influencer at Deloitte Digital, considers the back-to-back agency of record appointments “more of a novelty than a trend.” He understands the value of having a “channel-specific agency, especially in the current social media ecosystem in which each platform is “strong and individual in [its] own right, and the way you strategize and create for each one is also individual,” he said. But at the same time, a brand isolating its TikTok approach from its larger social media strategy can make it more difficult for the brand to adapt that strategy as social platforms shift and the brand’s audience evolves, he added.
“If brands want to try it and their budgets have the ability to handle it, that’s great, and I think more brands will try it,” Gold said. “I think it’s a strategy for brands that might not necessarily know how to navigate TikTok quite yet, so they opt to bring in someone who’s highly specialized. It’s kind of like you’re going to the hospital to find a doctor that knows how to operate on your hand. You’ll probably want the hand surgeon to fix your hand, and I get it, but you’d also hope that the ER doctor would know how to fix your whole body, including your hand.”
Gold suggests brands hire creators with first-hand experience producing content for TikTok to help them shape their TikTok strategies. Several brands and agencies have already begun partnering with creators to fill the production gaps that both Gold and Gahan point to as a driving force behind brands’ growing interest in TikTok agencies of record.
Read more: Creators are becoming strategists for brands
“Over time, we’ve learned that [social media] is an ever-changing business,” Gold said. “The minute you write something down on paper, it's obsolete. So, it's better to be prepared by understanding your audience than being prepared for just one channel.”