These Graduates Took Agency TikTok Handles Hostage, and Won’t Give Them Back Until They Get a Job

"Our demands are simple—give us a placement and we'll return the account"

graduates in masks
Creative duo and recent graduates Alex & Oli have 'hijacked' the TikTok accounts of the U.K.'s best agencies. Alex & Oli

LONDON—It can’t be easy for recent graduate right now, with ad agencies on both sides of the pond hemorrhaging talent as they try to stem the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

But two semi-anonymous British creatives who graduated in August have found an unusual way to get the attention of the U.K.’s best ad agencies: They’ve registered TikTok accounts in all of their names, and say they will hold them hostage until each one offers them a job.

The duo, who for the stunt masked up and called themselves Very Serious Partners, set up handles for agencies including Mother London, BBH London, AMV BBDO and Lucky Generals. They’ve tweeted the agencies to let them know about the username squatting directly, and have also targeted them with paid ads.

They’ve given the agencies 72 hours to get in touch with an offer, in which case they’ll hand over the handles.

If not, they plan to start uploading content to the accounts to force their hand—which will likely leave agencies regretting not setting up their own TikTok presence sooner.

The men behind the masks are 27-year-old Londoners Alex Morris and Oliver Finel (originally from Paris). The pair told Adweek the CEO of one major agency has already been in touch.

According to TikTok’s terms and conditions, accounts that purport to belong to someone else are not allowed, but parody and fan accounts are so long as it is clear there is no official affiliation. TikTok accounts that pose “in a confusing or deceptive manner” may be suspended, the rules state.

Ruffling feathers

Finel and Morris felt a little apprehensive launching the hijacking stunt, but such a drastic attention-grabbing act was necessary to help them get noticed in such a tough market. While the duo have been lucky to secure placements in the past, in seeking more industry experience they found a lot of shut doors and messages about hiring freezes.

“We thought we needed to do something to shake it up a bit [so] I signed up for loads of [TikTok accounts] as a way to get us noticed,” said Morris.

“We wanted to make a bit of noise and force their hand a bit,” he added. “We’re relatively so cheap as creative labour. Hopefully this ruffles a few feathers and gets us noticed.”

UPDATE: Looks like the tables have turned, with one London-based agency, Battenhall, claiming the hijackers’ own name on TikTok and vowing to only release it if the duo comes to work for them:

TBWA\London also responded on Twitter, saying “We will be in touch!”

Sounds like they also might have wrangled an NBA assignment:

@saramayspary Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.