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a brief overview of tiktok & its ad formats

Written by Abby
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The world of pay-per-click is ever-changing, whether it be changes to the Google algorithm or maybe even a brand new piece of tech available for advertising on. As professionals in the marketing space, it is vital to keep on top of popular behaviours and platform preferences amongst consumers in order to fully capitalise on all potential avenues of success. Here’s where TikTok comes in.


For those that have been living under a rock for the last two years, TikTok is a social media platform made for creating and interacting with short videos. The platform rose to popularity in late 2020 whilst the covid pandemic was most prevalent, meaning people had a lot more spare time to engage with the app. This initial success has led to the platform now boasting a huge 1 billion monthly active users and is very quickly becoming one of the most influential social media channels when it comes to daily use. In terms of audiences, generally this platform is used by the Gen Z demographic; users aged 10 – 29 account for 62% of the app’s total users. Also the gender gap on the platform is fairly minimal with 56% of users identifying as male and 44% identifying as female. Given the previous statistics, TikTok would be a perfect place to capture the attention of this demographic.


Unlike platforms such as Google & Facebook, TikTok’s algorithm also takes into account an ad’s creative quality and likeliness that the ad will be interacted with by its users. Furthermore, ads that are seen to be getting more likes, shares, and comments tend to show up more across the platform – the overarching idea is that better creative will get more engagement and as a result advertisers will see a much higher level of performance.

Due to TikTok being a newer platform, it generally has less competition within its bidding auctions, and this ultimately results in lower CPMs compared to its rivals. Furthermore, boasting more opportunities for ad creative to influence ad ranking brings down overall bidding costs too. However, the platform has a minimum spend of $500 per campaign, which may be a little less attractive to companies with a lower marketing budget than other platforms that offer lower minimum spend limits.


With there being a continuously growing number of companies looking to get in front of consumers, matched with the ever-depleting attention spans of said consumers, it is more important than ever to ensure advertisers are using the right kind of ad format in order to drive the results they’re wanting to achieve. Below is a brief summary of each of the main ad formats available on TikTok.


In-Stream Ads act just as the name implies – they occur within the video stream whilst the users are scrolling through content on the platform. As these appear within the stream, they blend in well and do not appear to be too disrupting to the user’s experience on the platform.

These types of ads are the only biddable option on TikTok, the bidding models available are: Cost Per Click, Cost Per Mille or Cost Per View.  Audience Targeting is also available to allow the ad to be pushed towards the intended demographic – this can include your own personal targeting lists. 

Ad length must be between 9 – 15 seconds long, which is the optimal amount of time that users would be likely to spend watching the ad; this is in line with the average consumers’ attention span. Multiple call-to-actions can also be added to increase conversions, such as links to landing pages etc. Liking, commenting and sharing is also enabled on these types of ads, allowing advertisers to increase engagement rates by communicating with users.


TopView ads appear around five seconds after the user opens the app and boasts the longest video ad format on TikTok with up to 60 seconds of content shown on full-screen with sound and autoplay. The ad type also allows advertisers to include links to internal or external pages. This type of ad format can be a great way to gain attention, increase brand awareness and drive traffic to a brand’s site. 

TikTok states that this ad format ranks number one in terms of engagement rates and is seen to have 67% higher sales effectiveness than the other ad types available on the platform. 


Branded Takeover ads are much like TopView ads in the sense that they appear as soon as the user loads up the app – making it widely available to the target audience. However, there are a few things that make this ad format different from others. Firstly, the ads can be seen as not only videos but also as GIFs and still images. This gives the advertiser the chance to have more branded content variations being pushed across the platform. Advertisers can also include a link either from the Branded Takeover ad to a Branded Hashtag ad or to an external landing page. 

As its name suggests, Branded Takeover ads are limited to only one advertiser per day, making sure the sole focus is only on one brand per day which gives the advertiser the maximum level of visibility and ability to build awareness. As a result, the cost of running this type of ad format is much higher than others available.


Branded Hashtags, otherwise known as Hashtag Challenges, allow brands to create interactive challenges for users to follow in order to create related videos that may feature under said hashtag. When users click on the hashtag they find that they are redirected to a landing page with links to the sponsor’s website, details surrounding the hashtag challenge and the most popular videos using the hashtag. These types of ads last six days and are seen to gather a lot of related content and interactions within those days.

Since TikTok users are noticeably fond of creating and sharing content on the app, these types of ad formats are a terrific way for advertisers to boost brand name recognition and engagement from user-generated content. However, if advertisers wish to be featured on TikTok’s discovery page they need to be aware that this can be a fairly expensive form of advertising on the platform.


Branded Effects Ads work similarly to filter ads used on other platforms. In a nutshell brands create a branded AR filter, sticker or lense that users can apply to their videos. These types of ads allow users to generate content on behalf of the brand in order to generate engagement and brand awareness. Investing in this type of ad would be a brilliant move for companies that are using TikTok for a campaign focused on building awareness, such as a new product launch campaign. 


Spark Ads are a fairly new addition to the platform. This ad format allows advertisers to essentially boost their own organic content or user-generated organic content in order to gain awareness around the brand and direct users to the brand account. This ad format is much like a sponsored or boosted post that is used on other platforms, whereby the advertising budget can be leveraged and used to push organic content to target audiences.


Using TikTok to advertise can be a very effective way to boost brand awareness and create leads, especially if executed properly by a team of specialists. For brands that are wanting to reach a younger target audience it is even more imperative that TikTok is added in the mix of paid media content pushed towards the demographic. With the right amount of creativity, knowledge around the best suited ad formats and maybe even an organic post or two, advertisers could find a lot of success on the platform.

For more tips, tricks and information on all things digital marketing, check out Flaunt Digital on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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