Lessons from a TikTok takeover

Every time one of the 1.9 million (mostly young ) Canadians on TikTok opened the app on Boxing Day, they got an ad featuring a promotion for Pizza Pizza and Coca Cola.

According to the Toronto agency Abacus, which created the campaign, the TikTok takeover generated more than 4.4 million impressions and more than four million views. There was a 14% clickthrough rate and 52,000 likes.

Abacus specializes in social media marketing, especially Facebook and Instagram, but the Pizza Pizza and Coca Cola ad was Abacus’s first time on the emerging TikTok ad platform, which only launched last year.

The agency, which also shared some takeaways from the effort on its site, had been working with Pizza Pizza for social media advertising, said agency co-founder and chief strategy officer Jeff Goldenberg.

“We suggested that they include TikTok in their paid social plan and pitched them on a concept,” he said. “The concept needed to work across all social and not just TikTok.”

Creative was inspired by nostalgia for both the Pizza Pizza brand and the ’90s—a popular theme across the internet according to Goldenberg. “We saw an opportunity to tap into the nostalgia during the most nostalgic time of the year, Christmas. Also the ’90s is a pillar of the internet, like cats and unicorns. We put all this together and outputted over 150 assets playing up that Pizza Pizza nostalgia,” he said.

“We used old logos, videos, and brand assets to push the most nostalgic pizza deal we could make.”

The goal was awareness, but there was also a clickthrough to the Pizza Pizza site. While the creative retained thematic consistency across all platforms, it was adapted to complement the nuances of each.

“[TikTok] is not the platform to recycle your creative from elsewhere, as even simple movie trailers for blockbuster movies seemed out of place on this user-driven platform,” wrote Abacus on its site.

TikTok is also dominated by young users, more so than other established platforms. According to Abacus, the 13-17 demo represents 39% of the Canadian user base, with people 18-44 representing 58%. “As the app grows, we expect the 18+ segment of the audience to continue to grow. Many TikTok users are not using other major social networks,” wrote Abacus.

We asked Goldenberg to expand on this hypothesis: How do we know that as users age, they won’t just grow out of the experience—which is dominated by music, dance challenges and lip syncs?

“I have no idea if people will continue to use as they age,” he said. “I think people need to experiment and see if it works. There are no guarantees, but there is a halo effect and an early adopter effect that can benefit fast moving advertisers.”

With so much experience in Facebook and Instagram, how will advertising on TikTok be different?

“I think it’s too soon to tell,” he said. “Users are only starting to see more ads. We always want to try to blend the advertising into the content and create something that’s less contextually jarring, that leaves behind some value or an emotion.”

The ad also generated more than 1,000 shares and 1,000 comments—some good, some bad.

“As a new advertising platform, users are not yet used to ads, so they definitely got their attention,” said Goldenberg. “Lots of people loved the ads, and some even created their own versions using the soundtrack.”

David Brown