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Everything You Need to Know About TikTok Ads

Updated on June 12, 2020
11 minute read

Get all the details on TikTok ads, from setting up your first campaign to creating ads that convert.

Published June 12, 2020

Thinking about using TikTok Ads for your brand or business?

As one of the most downloaded apps of 2020 with over 800 million monthly users — now is the time to start.

Whether you’re looking to make sales, drive traffic to your website, or launch a new product, a creative and well-targeted TikTok campaign can drive great (and huge!) results.

In this guide, discover everything you need to know about the different creative TikTok Ads options.

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Introducing TikTok Ads

From targeting, ad creation, insight reports, and ad management tools, TikTok Ads offer a powerful, yet easy-to-use platform to help businesses and brands advertise to millions of users across the globe.

TikTok Ads dashboard

While TikTok Ads aren’t as popular as Facebook or Instagram ads (yet!), they’re an incredible opportunity for brands looking to widen their reach. And now is the perfect time to start using TikTok ads — since not many brands and businesses have caught on to their potential.

Whether you’re a small business with a limited budget or you’re running a 10-day campaign, TikTok Ads offers a number of unique tools to help brands and businesses excel.

TikTok Ads examples

Similar to Instagram Ad Manager, TikTok’s advertising platform-tools automate the process of creating, delivering, and optimizing your ads.

TikTok Ads currently has two budgeting options: daily or lifetime. With both options, your budget isn’t set in stone — you can adjust your budget anytime throughout your campaign.

You can also target your audience by gender, location, age, interests, and other unique variables.

And similar to Facebook and Instagram’s Ad Manager, you can also create “Custom Audiences” and “Lookalike Audiences” to reach new audiences that are similar to your existing ones.

Let’s get into what TikTok Ads actually look like. TikTok offers a variety of different creative ad formats for brands and businesses to explore. You’ve likely seen most of the different types on your daily TikTok scroll.

TikTok Ads examples

Here are the five types of TikTok Ads:

  • In-Feed Ads

  • Brand Takeover

  • TopView

  • Branded Hashtag Challenge

  • Branded Effects

With a variety of different options to choose from, it’s hard to know which ad format is best for your brand — which is why we dive into the different types of TikTok ads and how they can work for your business below.

Ready to take your TikTok strategy up a notch? Watch our free 30-minute video on how to use TikTok to grow your brand! 

TikTok Ads: In-Feed Ads 

In-Feed Ads are the video ads that appear in between user videos as you scroll through your For You page. If you’re unfamiliar with TikTok and the For You page, In-Feed Ads are very similar to the ads you’d see while tapping through Instagram Stories.

TikTok Ads In feed

You can get super creative with In-Feed Ads. You can include multiple call-to-actions and make your video anywhere between 9 to 15 seconds.

Having the opportunity to include a call-to-action is a huge advantage. For example, you can encourage users to shop now, download your app, or visit your website right from TikTok.

See how Adobe uses a clear CTA in their In-Feed Ad below.

TikTok Ads Example Adobe

One thing to keep in mind is that like any other video on your For You Page, In-Feed Ads can be scrolled past or skipped pretty quickly. You only have about 2-3 seconds to catch your audience’s eye before they keep scrolling.

In-Feed Ads should be full screen and should be enticing enough to stop users from scrolling past your content.

When it comes to stopping the scroll, Sawyer Hartman, the CEO of Cameras on TikTok, gave some sound advice on our “Talk the Tok” Workshop:

“The text on TikTok videos should establish a problem or grab attention right away. Imagine your perfect viewer is sitting and watching your video with the sound off, what text can you put and what story can you tell that will convince them to turn their sound on?”


Hear more tips and tricks from Sawyer and our other TikTok experts in the full TikTok Workshop here:

Another positive to In-Feed Ads? TikTok users can like, comment, share, and interact with your video just like any other video on the For You page.

TIP: Work with influencers for your In-Feed ads! Take Levi’s for example.

Levi’s worked with several TikTok creators — sending each of them their Future Finish 3D denim customization technology, giving them full creative control over their jeans.

TikTok Ads In Feed example

The creators’ videos appeared on TikTok as In-Feed Ads where users could click on the “Shop Now” button to buy the same design on Levi’s website.

TikTok Ads: Brand Takeover 

Have you ever opened up TikTok and received an ad right away? If so, those are Brand Takeover Ads.

Brand Takeover Ads appear upon opening the app — presenting a full-screen video to your targeted audience.

They’re one of TikTok Ad’s best options for delivering mass awareness and driving direct sales since you can place your messaging right in front of your target audience.

Not only do these ads show up as soon as users open TikTok, but they can also appear on the For You page as still images, GIFs or videos — including a clickable link driving users to a landing page or a Hashtag Challenge within TikTok.

See how Guess Jeans had their #InMyDenim Challenge advertised all across TikTok. The photo below on the far left is an example of a Brand Takeover.

TikTok Ads Brand Takeover example

Brand Takeover Ads are exclusive to their category, which means that TikTok makes sure users don’t see more than one Brand Takeover per day. With Brand Takeover Ads you can expect a lot of eyes on your content with little competition.

If you’re just starting out with TikTok Ads, Brand Takeovers may not be your first choice. Because, while super effective, Brand Takeovers do come at a high cost.

If you’re a bigger brand with a large marketing budget, they are a great option for fast growth and reaching a large group of TikTok users.

TikTok Ads: TopView 

TopView Ads are a new advertising option that builds on Brand Takeovers.

What makes TopView Ads different is that unlike Branded Takeover Ads, TikTok users aren’t bombarded with an ad as soon as they open the app — TopView Ads are the first in-feed post after 3 seconds.

TikTok Ads Example

It shows up at the top of the For You page, TikTok’s most premium real estate, with up to 60-seconds of full-screen video with auto-play and sound.

TikTok Ads: Branded Hashtag Challenge 

Branded Hashtag Challenges are a one-of-a-kind advertising opportunity exclusively to TikTok. You’ve probably seen branded hashtag challenges displayed on TikTok’s Discovery page.

Similar to regular hashtag trends and challenges on TikTok, Branded Hashtags Challenges offer both organic and sponsored opportunities for brands.

They’re a great way to encourage user-generated content and build brand awareness.

The best part about Branded Hashtag Challenges? You can have a ton of fun with them! They are an awesome way for brands to collaborate and seamlessly integrate themselves into the TikTok culture and community.

It’s important to have concrete objectives when you’re creating a Branded Hashtag Challenge. Are you looking to create awareness for a new product? Generate new leads? Or increase general brand awareness?

When a user clicks on a sponsored hashtag, they’re taken to a landing page on TikTok with the brand logo, link to their website, brief description of the challenge, and popular videos using the hashtag.

TikTok Ads Example

If you’re looking for maximum exposure, you can pay up to a hefty $150,000 per day to show up on TikTok’s Discover banner. That’s huge real estate but it’s not the only way to get users engaged with your branded hashtag.

TIP: If you’re looking for a less costly alternative, partner with popular creators on TikTok, like Houseparty and Freal Milkshakes below, to help your challenge take off!

Check out how the popular video messaging app, Houseparty, uses branded hashtags in a recent campaign on TikTok.

See how Houseparty partnered with Gen-Z heartthrob Chase Stokes (or better known as “John B” from Outer Banks) to help push their hashtag even further.

TikTok Ads example

ICYMI: TikTok now offers an e-commerce feature called the Hashtag Challenge Plus — a feature that lets users shop for products right in the app.

The Hashtag Challenge Plus feature — which has only started rolling out on select accounts — offers a separate “Discover” tab on the hashtag’s landing page where TikTok users can browse products from the campaign and purchase them right within TikTok.

TikTok Ads: Branded Effects

TikTok now offers branded shareable stickers, AR filters, and lenses in their advertising mix.

Similar to Snapchat’s branded lenses, TikTok’s branded effects allow brands to design their own custom filter on the app.

TikTok Ads Branded Effects

Branded Effects can be live for up to 10 days at a time and are an awesome way to encourage users to directly interact with your brand (in a fun way!).

How Much do TikTok Ads Cost?

TikTok Ads are new to the scene — brands and businesses are still experimenting with the platform — so understanding the average spend or return on investment (ROI) is difficult.

So, if you’re a small business and want to give TikTok ads a try, don’t let the unknown scare you off right away — spending big bucks on TikTok isn’t the only way to advertise on the popular app.

You can set up a free TikTok Ads account and create In-Feed ads with your own set budget and schedule. Currently, TikTok’s minimum campaign budget is $500 and the minimum ad group budget is $50.

However, it has also been reported that the cost of advertising on TikTok can be anywhere from $50,000 to $120,000, depending on the type and duration.

If these reported numbers are true, it would make sense as to why we haven’t really seen smaller businesses advertising on TikTok just yet.

As more brands begin to engage and use TikTok Ads, it will become more clear whether TikTok will follow a similar model to Instagram and Facebook ads where (no budget is too small), or if they will continue to keep certain ad types, like branded hashtag challenges, as elite spends.

Watch this space!

How to Create a TikTok Ad

Now that you’re familiar with TikTok’s creative advertising options, it’s time to talk about the tools that help get your ads into action.

Before you can go ahead and create ads on TikTok, even In-Feed ads, you have to be approved by TikTok. It’s not a difficult process, just an extra step to keep in mind.

Here is how to request a TikTok Ads account:

#1: Head to the TikTok Ads homepage.

TikTok Ads Homepage

#2: Enter your country and account type and press “Next”.

TikTok Ads Homepage Setup

#3: TikTok Ads is currently only available in certain regions. Fill out all of your contact information and depending on if TikTok Ads self-serve is available in your region, either press “Make a Reservation” or “Inform me of Future Updates”.

Note: TikTok Ads Manager self-serve platform is now available in the United States for businesses of all sizes.

TikTok Ads Homepage

#4: Now it’s time to wait for TikTok to send more information.  Make sure to double-check all your email folders (promotions, social, junk, etc).

Follow these steps if you don’t receive verification.

TIP: If you know you want to start advertising on TikTok in the future (even if it’s not for a while!) create an account sooner than later to be sure you have it there when you’re ready.

Once you get the verification email, TikTok asks a number of questions about your business and advertising goals. After you submit the questionnaire, a TikTok representative will be in touch with you over email to help you complete the process.

Following that, you’ll be able to enter and officially set up your account.

On TikTok’s self-serve platform, you can create and run campaigns, easily define your target audience, select bidding methods, and design your ad creative.

Note: As of right now, it’s unclear whether you can login to the platform and create a Branded Hashtag Challenge campaign or if you need to work directly with a TikTok sales rep to do so. According to Digiday, some advertising campaigns are managed and monitored by TikTok’s own team.

And there you have it, our quick guide to TikTok Ads.

By now, you should have a clear understanding of TikTok’s creative advertising options and the early steps on how you can put them into practice for your business.

If you’re looking for even more TikTok tips and tricks, watch our free 30-minute TikTok workshop below.

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