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#Sponsored: TikTok, The Rise of Influencer Marketing, and why Ads cant be Ads

as long as advertising has existed, humans have hated it.

we’ve all rolled our eyes and waited impatiently for the skip option to pop up on the pre youtube video ad. i had an aunt who, when watching any form of tv, had a zero tolerance policy for ads, and would mute them when they came on in between shows. i remember as a little kid, looking at billboards or print ads in magazines and wondering – what’s the point of doing that? just because they show me something doesn’t mean I’m gonna buy it! 

humans hate being told what to wear, eat, do….. and above all the feeling of being marketed to. to be analyzed and tracked in the way that marketing and advertising necessitates feels unnatural and a little sinister. it’s a vaguely Orwellian invasion of privacy.

cartoon drawing of person being puppeteered. source: Pixabay. free for commercial use.
image: just do it- serena williams nike billboard 1298. source: brechtbug. image is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

a woman using smartphone and ringlight. source: free for commercial use.
connection graphic. source: Pixabay. free for commercial use

scrolling through your TikTok ‘For You Page’, you’ll find an in-feed ad generally every 5-8 videos. these are labelled ‘sponsored’ in relatively small lettering in the bottom left corner of the video, blending branded content seamlessly with the rest of the feed.

brands are increasingly using humorous viral ‘sounds’ in advertising, which include popular remixes, snippets of dialogue from movies and TV shows, and even memes to promote their products. i often find myself consuming these with as much enthusiasm as i would a regular TikTok, until I realise 15 seconds in that i’m actually chuckling at *gasp* an AD! 

person holding android phone with the tiktok app open. source: free for commercial use.

i would argue the core of Instagram is aesthetics, but the core of TikTok is trends and virality- dances, challenges, the use of viral ‘sounds’ to generate memes and more. advertising that mimics this type of content reads way more authentic than a carefully curated sponsored Instagram post or story. 

influencers on the platform are well placed to create content that promotes a brand or product without seeming at all like an ad. one of my favourite types of videos to watch are product ‘hauls’ – essentially a compilation of products that the influencer in question has been gifted from a particular brand.


Ughhhh yes. Code “SOPHD15” all from @SNDYS

♬ Stay Alive VS 50 C TIK TOK – imanonair

Simple fits >> from @culturekings queens. Code “SOPHIA”

♬ original sound – Phoebe
tiktok videos of Sophia Begg’s hauls and try ons, which are collaborations with clothing brands SNDYS and culture kings. the captions prompt viewers to use her discount code. source: tiktok user @sophadophaa

Australian TikTok star Sophia Begg (@sophadophaa), regularly posts these as well as ‘try-ons’ of clothes from partner brands such as Tiger Mist, Beginning Boutique and Jaded London. i’m being influenced really well – the craziest part is I’m being advertised to and i like it! i, and millions of others, willingly seek out these types of videos as a form of entertainment. it’s a great way to see what’s on offer from a brand, so much more personal than just browsing a website – and of course i feel like I’m getting a real, authentic product recommendation from a trusted friend. 

screenshot of the #tiktokmademebuyit on tiktok’s web platform. picture: me!
tweet from @adweek with statistics on tiktok and purchasing habits. source: @adweek on twitter.

while TikTok is relatively new as a platform in social media and influencer marketing, it is fast becoming one of the most critical places to advertise, particularly in reaching a younger consumer market.  i’d say to all marketers, business owners and even those who are looking to create a personal brand on social media for themselves- TikTok is the place to do it. 


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