August Noble was hesitant to test TikTok ads for clients of his independent marketing firm. “I was begrudgingly holding off having to learn a new platform and a new creative approach,” Noble said in a recent phone interview. But in a time of advertising upheaval, with Apple’s new data policies crimping marketing, the economy slowing, and brands looking for better ad performance wherever they can get it, Noble had to test TikTok.
Noble said he manages between $5 million and $7 million in ad spending a month for about a dozen brands, half of which are direct-to-consumer products. About 80% of the ad budgets typically go to Facebook and Instagram, he estimated, and most of the rest to Google. In July, Noble ran a test, moving 80% of one client’s spend to TikTok, turning off ads on Meta-owned Instagram and Facebook. Noble would not name the brand publicly, but it makes consumer health packaged goods—the kind of product that is easy for TikTok influencers to demonstrate in videos, driving sales on sites like Amazon after gaining a little virality.
“On TikTok, it was massive,” Noble said of the leap in revenue. During an average month, the product generated about $180,000 in sales from about $80,000 in ad spending. In July, revenue was closer to $300,000, after the TikTok experiment.
That is all well and good, but Noble’s example also highlighted another trend affecting millions of marketers: TikTok could not quite measure how effective the ad campaigns were, and that’s because of Apple, Noble said.
Apple’s anti-data policies made it so apps cannot track a consumer from an ad view to a sale. Once a consumer leaves an app like TikTok to make a purchase, the “conversion” is undetectable, unless the consumer allowed the app to track them. That is part of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency rules, which took effect last year. The loss of “signal” on Apple software—iOS—wreaked havoc on marketers’ measurement schemes. “Attribution isn’t perfect from any of these platforms, but the gap that we’re seeing with TikTok is bigger than any other,” Noble said.