- TikTok has partnered with four North American agencies as it looks to sharpen a marketing strategy in the U.S., Ad Age reported. TikTok's aim, beyond increasing brand awareness in a valuable market, is to stand out less as an alternative to the likes of Snapchat and Instagram, and more as a platform like YouTube, sources told Ad Age.
- The social video app, owned by the private Chinese startup ByteDance, will work with IPG's Initiative, RPA, the Montreal-based independent firm Sid Lee and a small California agency called Channel. Sid Lee has spearheaded TikTok's social media duties since March, the company confirmed to Ad Age.
- Creative work will be handled between Channel and RPA, Ad Age's sources said, with RPA also offering some strategic services. TikTok sent out an RFP for a creative agency of record in February, which led to signing on RPA and Channel, according to the report. Initiative will lead TikTok's media business.
TikTok has quickly risen to become the app of choice for U.S. teens, so it's no surprise that the company is looking to hone a marketing strategy in the region to better capitalize on that clout. The app has remained the most-downloaded in Apple's App Store for five consecutive quarters, according to data from Sensor Tower, and was ahead of Facebook and Instagram in the Google Play Store in May.
Marketers have inevitably tried to chase some of the elusive Gen Z eyeballs TikTok continues to command, and will likely welcome the ByteDance unit building out a stronger network of stateside agency partners as it tries to strengthen its brand positioning. TikTok's goal to reportedly become akin to YouTube versus the services it more closely resembles, like Instagram, is an ambitious one. The app will probably need to foster a bigger network of creators in order to reach that target, Greg Paull, co-founder of R3, told Ad Age.
A larger North American agency roster could mean TikTok is also looking to ramp up its work with brands which could, in turn, draw more content creators. Earlier this month, the app debuted its first multimarket brand campaign, an effort promoting Uniqlo. The push asked users to share videos of themselves wearing their favorite outfits purchased at the fast-fashion retailer. The contest was targeted at creators in the U.S., France, Taiwan and Japan, where Uniqlo is based.
But TikTok also has public image issues that agencies could help it deal with. Many TikTok controversies stem from its biggest appeal to brands: massive popularity among groups like teens. As noted in Ad Age, TikTok is currently being investigated by regulators in the U.K. for how it handles children's private data, along with in-app features like messaging, where adults can directly contact young users. In the U.S., the FTC has raised eyebrows around similar matters.