TikTok marketers can now directly sponsor trending creator posts
TikTok is announcing today the global launch of Spark Ads, a native ad format that allows advertisers to use organic user posts as part of their ad campaigns on the app, making it easier to leverage trending content and supplement larger campaigns. It’s the latest sign that creator content is one of the biggest draws for consumers and therefore an area marketers want to tap.
The new hybrid format, available in TikTok’s Ads Manager, straddles organic content and paid advertising on the platform by permitting brands to sponsor creators’ already published posts as long as they receive their authorization. Spark Ads also allows marketers to amplify their own organic posts from their own TikTok accounts and upload Spark Ads creative directly to Ads Manager to post to a TikTok account with the user’s approval. TikTok had been testing the new format with select marketers but it is now being made widely available.
The news is timed to TikTok’s For You Summit on Wednesday, July 21, which is only open to TikTok brand partners who will hear from creators, agency partners, brands and TikTok executives on ways to best use the channel, with focuses on working with creators and music trends.
“Brands can now tap into the plethora of creative, diverse content and connect with the creators who help bring these products and services to life,” according to a TikTok blog post.
The new approach is a twist on how influencer branded content or user-generated content is traditionally conducted, where a brand or agency reaches out to an influencer agency or creator directly to develop content that could work for an upcoming campaign. With Spark Ads, the content is already created and posted and brands or agencies can choose to attach their names or products to the work. It means that brands can quickly hop on content that might be blowing up on the app. If a post goes viral, brands and agencies can seek the creator’s approval directly from the app to sponsor the video. Brands can do so by creating a code through Ads Manager and setting an authorization approval period. Once the creator approves, the video becomes sponsored.
As such, the new Spark Ads have the potential to cut out middlemen—the agency or influencer agency working with creators. However, brands have less control over Spark Ads. The Spark Ads appear in the app similarly to how regular TikTok ads do, but naturally, advertisers cannot change the content in the ad itself, change the display name or the text of the original post.
“Removing friction is a good thing for the creator economy,” says Ryan Detert, CEO and founder of influencer agency Influential. “We will continue to create content with influencers and amplify via paid media using custom audiences and optimizations. Everyone will have to bring value to be an integral part of a campaign and brand strategy.”
When a creators’ post is selected for a Spark Ad, the content becomes highlighted with a “sponsored” alert and obtains a call-to-action button encouraging viewers to take an action such as “learn more” or “download,” that when pressed, directs them to landing pages or app install pages. Users can also click the profile photo, the nickname, video caption or swipe left to get to the video owner’s profile page. Brands can also choose to drive users to their own TikTok profiles rather than a landing page and use TikTok’s auction or reach and frequency program in beta to buy and target Spark Ads.
Marketers are able to see insights from the ads, just as they would with traditional TikTok ads, including paid clicks from the button and ad caption, the number of likes, shares and followers the video received within a day of a user seeing a paid ad, and the number of paid profile visits the ad drove. Marketers will also be able to see paid video views on top of the organic video views on the video page in Ads Manager.
Spark Ads also provide more access and insights into how users are engaging with music. Unlike with regular TikTok ads, users can click on the name of the song that is playing or the music disc that appears on the right side of the screen to go to a designated music page through Spark Ads. Brands can then see how many times users clicked on the songs alone.
The ability to further use creator content in campaigns is being seen across the social media landscape, as brands look to leverage creator posts that are already seeing high levels of engagement.
A 2020 annual survey report from influencer marketing agency Takumi found that 32% of consumers find influencer content more relatable than brands’ own advertising. “TikTok’s new Spark Ads feature is certainly following the evolution of marketing methodology in 2021,” says Kristy Engels, chief marketing officer, Takumi. “As we see repeated platform innovation supporting creators via affiliate links, swipe ups, and branded content, it’s important to note that adopting these into official brand pages will significantly increase organic engagement.”
There’s no doubt that TikTok is the app of the hour. Last week, TikTok surpassed 3 billion downloads globally, the first non-Facebook mobile app to do so, according to data from mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower. The app has been leading download charts every month for the past year and a half.
With more emphasis on creator content, social platforms have needed to develop new ways to help advertisers and agencies work closer with creator content. During the pandemic, competitor Instagram has been giving advertisers have more control over influencer branded content. In June, the platform launched a new native affiliate tool to help generate sales and garner insights around which creators are leading to which purchases. And in November 2020, Instagram gave advertisers more control over influencer branded content in-feed and brought branded content campaigns to Reels and Live. In May 2021, Snapchat announced a new Creator Marketplace, a directory of its top creators and AR Lens makers that is rolling out to all creators by 2022.