On Sept. 8, Ad Age announced a new category for its 2023 A-List & Creativity Awards: Best Use of TikTok, which will be chosen by a jury of Ad Age editors and TikTok executives. The award, which is free to enter, will honor an agency or brand that understands TikTok's core DNA—the power of creativity—and whose work created specifically for the platform had cultural and/or commercial impact. (Entries for the A-List & Creativity Awards will close on Dec. 6, 2022.)
The award is yet another sign of the entertainment platform’s rapid ascent to the top of the social media heap. TikTok is the most popular app in the world. Not only was TikTok’s website visited more than Google last year, but according to Google itself, Gen Z increasingly uses TikTok and other short-form video apps as its preferred search engine.
Two recent major newspaper articles—The Washington Post’s “How TikTok Ate the Internet” and The Wall Street Journal’s “TikTok’s Stratospheric Rise: An Oral History”—tracked TikTok’s continued remarkable growth.
The numbers don’t lie:
Over the past couple of years, for example, three separate Nielsen Media Mix Model Meta Analyses commissioned by the entertainment platform have consistently shown that TikTok drives positive ROAS and sales efficiency across the CPG vertical. According to the studies, CPG brands in the U.S. saw a 96% higher paid media ROAS versus all digital media measured in the models, and almost three times the offline sales efficiency.
According to TikTok internal data, 67% of users say the app’s content inspired them to shop, even when they weren’t planning to do so. What’s more, 73% claim to feel a deeper connection to brands they interact with on TikTok. Another study TikTok conducted with research firm Material showed that 56% of TikTok users say that ads on the platform lead them to discover new products and brands, and 48% of TikTok users are interested in making a purchase on or from the platform in the next three months.
How to TikTok 101
But as the entertainment platform has evolved into an undeniable marketing force, said Krystle Watler, TikTok’s head of creative agency partnerships (CAP), the industry focus is “no longer about ‘Why TikTok?’ Creative agencies are all trying to figure out the ‘How?’”
With that in mind, TikTok’s CAP team launched CAP University, an educational program aimed at teaching creative agencies the ins and outs of producing content on the platform with the goal of becoming TikTok experts for their clients.
“The brand guidelines of the past must evolve for this next chapter of modern marketing,” said Watler. “It is our job, our responsibility and our privilege to help the creative agency audience figure out how TikTok works.”
Some 28,000 people signed up for the first semester, which ran from April 19 to May 18, earlier this year; 11,000 attendees with a curriculum covering everything from briefing and pitching to music licensing and partnering with creators. At the close of the semester, 80% of attendees gave the course a rating of 4-5 stars.
The success of the lessons offered during CAP University’s spring semester inspired TikTok to offer a fall session: On Tuesday, Nov. 29, TikTok launched its second semester of CAP University.
Shorter is better
Whereas spring’s semester lasted five weeks and featured hour-long live classes with subsequent Q&A sessions, this time around Watler and her team decided to experiment with shorter-form, pre-recorded content, allowing agencies to pick and choose what feels most relevant to their clients.
“In a Q4 environment, where everyone is focused on making it to the end of the year, making their numbers and getting those final productions out, we didn’t want to have to require that much attention from people who already had limited time,” Watler explained. “So, with this semester, we’re testing what it would be like if the content were shorter. Each class is going to range from 10 to 25 minutes.”
And, as always, Watler added, TikTok’s CAP team will be available for any follow-up questions or concerns.
For the fall semester, CAP students can tune in, on demand, to five different courses: “Always Engaged” will focus on the value of investing in both an organic and paid brand presence on the platform, while “Finding Your Brand Voice” offers guidance on crafting an ownable tone of voice that will shine for brands, communities and agencies. And given the current economy, Watler believes that “Producing in the Era of TikTok”—which features tips, tricks and resources on how to produce content with limited resources, and either a small or non-existent licensing budget—will be a particularly popular course.
Rounding out the semester, “Creators & Communities” takes a deep dive inside TikTok’s Branded Mission product and how agencies can crowdsource authentic, creator-led, branded content. Lastly, “Content to Cart” offers an overview of commerce products through the lens of campaign development.
TikTok SME-led courses
Leading each of these courses will be subject matter experts from inside TikTok. This was important to Watler, because previous attendees emphasized that one of their favorite aspects about the spring semester was the caliber of the instructors. Attendees loved hearing information firsthand from the platform’s own employees versus outside specialists.
“We want creative agencies to feel like they are partnering with us,” said Watler. “TikTok is a creatively led platform and it’s important for us to engage with creative agencies to continue to emphasize that. We are here for the industry—we are here to see them win, we are here to see them succeed and we are here to partner.”
To learn more about CAP University, click here.