All the TikTok Ad Formats and What You Need to Know About Them

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!

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Reservation vs. Auction Ads

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.

TopView vs. TopFeed Reservation Ads

TopView vs. TopFeed Reservation Ads


TopView Ads

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.

TopFeed Ads

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

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.

Example of an in-feed ad

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.

Branded Hashtag Challenge

Branded Hashtag Challenge

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:

  • HTC+ Explore page: leads to a customizable landing page within the app, which is great for additional exposure for the brand and products
  • HTC + Branded Effect
  • HTC + Contest: Can offer some type of prize for the challenge to encourage users to partake
  • HTC + Hashtag Emoji: Use a customized brand emoji that appears alongside the hashtag anywhere it shows up. (In a recent analysis of 270 HTC campaigns, including 13 with Hashtag Emoji, TikTok found that the emoji correlated with a 43% increase in clicks on the hashtag.)

HTC Specs

The various elements of HTC campaigns have strict specs for advertisers to keep in mind:

  • ​Hashtags
    • Hashtags must be limited to 70 English characters. We recommend keeping hashtags under 18 characters to make the full name visible on one line on major mobile devices.
    • Hashtags can’t use any spaces, emojis, symbols or punctuation. (When you’re setting the name of a hashtag challenge, you can’t use emojis, though you can add them separately after the campaigns are live.)
    • ​The Hashtag names will be co-determined by the client and TikTok.
  • Profile picture
    • ​Picture size: 240*240 px
    • ​File size: 500KB or less
    • Format: PNG, JPG or JPEG
  • Challenge description
    • ​There’s no character limit for the challenge descriptions, but they will auto-collapse after 4 lines. This means users need to click on the 'Expand' button to see the full description.
    • ​Challenge descriptions may include emoji v11. Note: Emoji may look different across different devices and operating systems, and some v11 emojis may not be supported on some Android devices.
    • ​Challenge descriptions CANNOT contain &, <, >, "", or URLs.
    • ​A sponsorship disclaimer box will appear after the challenge description.
  • Featured video
    • These videos will be pinned at the top of User Generated Content (UGC) videos with a "Featured" tag. We recommend using at least 3 featured videos for better user engagement.
    • ​Video ratios: 9:16 aspect ratio, ≥720x1280px and 100MB or less; Bitrate: higher than 2,500 kbps.
    • ​Video format: MP4, MPEG, 3GP, AVI, MOV.
    • ​Length: 5-60 seconds (9-15 seconds is strongly recommended).
    • We recommend that ​HTC-related InFeed ads are native ads.
  • ​Video caption:
    • ​Character limit: 150 characters for all languages.
    • ​The corresponding hashtag challenge name should be included in the video caption.

Branded Effects

Branded Effects

Branded Effects offer a range of options to help creative stand out; they encourage user creation similar to HTC campaigns.

Creative options include:

  • Green Screen: users can superimpose footage over images or videos
  • Interactive: users can record themselves participating in games and quizzes in real time
  • World AR: augmented reality that transforms the user’s surroundings

Advertisers can deploy Branded Effects to make an impact throughout the purchase funnel:

  • Upper: enables immersive discovery
  • Mid: entices engagement; audiences directly experience the message, leading to increased connection and memorability
  • Lower: increased engagement drive greater purchase intent/behavior

Branded Effects Specs

Branded Effects come with a host of creative specs to consider (full list available from TikTok here):

  • Clickable Area
    • ​The clickable area is a part of the Branded Effect design and can only be applied to a single 2D image layer.
    • ​If the clickable area is applied to 2D Hand/Face Effect, then the area size must be < 200*200px. If it's applied to 2D Foreground Effect, then the area size must be < 250*540px/
  • Hint Pattern
    • ​The Hint Pattern must be added to the effect as a part of the design to show people how to use the effect. The Hint Pattern must be built into the effect's design.
    • ​Hint Pattern size: 50x170px.
  • Pop-Up Icon
    • ​You must provide a rounded image (64x64px).
    • ​Keep the important information within the core area of 46*46px to avoid important information being trimmed from the circle crop.
    • ​Pop-Up Icon size: < 100kb.
  • Pop-Up Text
    • Use up to 40 English characters.

Branded Effects Specs

Brand Takeover

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).

Single Video and Spark Ads

Single Video and Spark Ads

Single Video

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.

Spark Ads 

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).

Spark Ads 

Video Ad Specs (Covering TopFeed, TopView, In-Feed)

  • File Type: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • Ratio: 9:16
  • Resolution: ≥540*960px, ≥640*640px, or ≥960*540px
  • Maximum File Size: ≤500 MB
  • Video Duration: Ideally 9-15 seconds.
  • Design note: We recommend leaving the bottom of the video free from text and logos to avoid covering these elements with the ad headline and description.


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.

Jordan Digital Marketing's B2b Guide to TikTok Ads

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