TikTok doesn’t have the reach of Facebook or the ecosystem of Google, but it sure does offer a lot of ad formats and placements – so much so that advertisers may not be aware of all of them.
To fix that, we’ve put together a guide to TikTok’s ad formats, placements, and buying options, complete with caveats and recommendations.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
On TikTok, advertisers can purchase ad inventory through either Reservations or Auction buys.
Reservation-buying guarantees impressions with your spot on the For You Page (FYP); these placements are either TopFeed, InFeed, or TopView, which we’ll get into in a second. Because of the impressions guarantee and the premium placements, Reservation ads are more expensive than auction ads, especially since you can optimize the latter to focus on conversion events.
A TopView ad is the first video your targeted user sees when they open TikTop – which makes it similar to Brand Takeover ads despite taking up less than the full screen.
TopView ads are expensive, so use them for attention-grabbing initiatives like new product launches, influencer campaigns, etc. They’ll get you broad reach and a ton of impressions and do a good job of capturing eyeballs; 71% of users say TopView grabs their attention, and TikTok cites it as the most engaging ad format. TopView ads are available on a CPM basis.
These ads, the first ones users see as they go through their For You feed, are available to qualified customers for Reach and Frequency campaigns (you’ll need to contact your TikTok rep for access). Reach campaigns provide an estimated scope to help you set a budget.
These are one of TikTok’s newest ad formats (previously known as One Day Max). For these ads and TopView ads, it’s best to use creative that makes a memorable impression and gets your brand’s personality across. Note that these are cheaper than TopView since they’re still in-feed ads, but you still benefit from being the first ad viewed.
In-Feed ads are available through either Auction bidding or Reservation. They’re the most commonly used ad type and show up in the For You feed, which helps them feel native to the platform.
In-feed ads are compatible with all bidding objectives and can be considered for use at all stages of the purchase funnel. They’re great for staying top of mind for users and can be used as Spark Ads for influencer collaborations.
The optimal video length of InFeed ads is 15-30 seconds, but keep in mind that most users drop off after the first 3-5 seconds. Make sure to get the most eye-catching parts of your video, along with your brand logo, in the intro section.
The HTC (hashtag challenge) feature is great for driving massive engagement and brand awareness; TikTok reports seeing higher ad recall that translates into higher ROAS down the funnel.
HTC campaigns come with a huge bonus: organic visibility that often lasts well beyond the campaign. A recent Marketing Mix Models (MMx) study by Nielsen found that more than half the return on ad spend driven by HTC campaigns was attributed to organic video views, spanning well beyond the campaign period,
When you’re ideating a challenge, keep in mind that the most successful HTC campaigns start with parameters and direction but allow creators plenty of room to add their unique spin. Videos from the challenge can be used for in-feed or reservation ads, which gives them value beyond the HTC campaign.
HTCs used as TopView ads have proven to make it 5x more likely that users will post a relevant video, but there are plenty of other combinations to consider:
The various elements of HTC campaigns have strict specs for advertisers to keep in mind:
Branded Effects offer a range of options to help creative stand out; they encourage user creation similar to HTC campaigns.
Creative options include:
Advertisers can deploy Branded Effects to make an impact throughout the purchase funnel:
Branded Effects come with a host of creative specs to consider (full list available from TikTok here):
If you’d like to make a big splash on a big budget, talk to your TikTok rep about Brand Takeover ads, which are full-screen ads that appear on the FYP immediately after someone opens TikTok. They’re created using 3 to 5-second videos (or 3-second images) and direct viewers to a HTC or a landing page. And unlike TopView, these take up the entire screen – there’s no missing them.
TikToker users only see one Branded Takeover ad per day, which puts their pricing at a premium. If you have the budget, they’re effective for highlighting events, product launches, or user challenges (hashtag, effects).
This is the most standard/basic ad type and resides in the feed. Advertisers once had the option to use images instead of videos, but that was phased out.
These were one of TikTok’s buzzier ad types when they were launched (you can find all sorts of info from TikTok here). They can use InFeed, TopView, or TopFeed placements, and there’s a huge range of auction-based bidding objectives: Reach, Video Views, Community Interaction, Traffic, App Installs, Conversions, Lead Generation, and Shop Purchases (Alpha).
If your head is spinning from the options, you’re not alone – and your work isn’t done, since TikTok (like its competitors) is constantly updating its creative options. As copycats like Reels and YouTube Shorts emerge, TikTok will need to release new, engaging formats to maintain its edge with younger users.
Our advice: bookmark this blog, wade into the TikTok waters to get your creative juices flowing, and make sure to test different formats and bidding options that align with your brand objectives.
If you have any questions for, or need guidance from, JDM’s TikTok advertising experts, drop us a line.
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