TikTok Expands Targeting With Widespread Rollout of Self-Serve Ad Platform

Reaching certain audience segments on the app has been tricky

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TikTok has been one of the hottest apps for marketers, but has lacked advanced targeting abilities. TikTok
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TikTok is expanding its advertising capabilities internationally.

The social video app is moving Ads Manager, its self-serve platform that allows advertisers to custom-build campaigns, out of beta, the company announced today.

Previously, self-serve options were only available to select customers in certain markets. All other sales were direct. The company didn’t disclose which companies used the feature during beta testing, which started last year.

TikTok will also allow advertisers to target users based on more specific demographics, including gender, location, device, age, language and interest. The move could give the company an advantage in chasing the reach and target capabilities that other social media platforms, such as Facebook, provide.

These targeting abilities are not new to the self-serve platform, but the expansion of self-serve brings them to every TikTok advertiser.

Additionally, TikTok pledged $100 million in advertising credits to small and medium-sized businesses “at a time when small businesses have been severely impacted around the world” due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic turbulence it’s brought. TikTok would not say how many businesses—small or large—advertise on the app.

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“TikTok’s immersive, short-form videos give businesses a platform to participate and engage with a community known for its creativity, ingenuity and joy,” said Blake Chandlee, vp of global business solutions at TikTok, in a statement. “As our marketing solutions scale and evolve, we’re continuously building for the future and aiming to meet the growing needs of our partners.”

While TikTok has been the shiniest new tool for digital marketers in the last year, media buyers have lamented the app’s bare-bones targeting and measurement capabilities in recent interviews with Adweek. 

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As the app has grown in popularity and shattered app marketplace records in Q1 2020—with 315 million downloads across the App Store and Google Play, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower—it has also broadened its reach beyond its dominant Gen Z contingent, according to Comscore data first reported by Adweek.

While those trends indicate growth and maturation for the company, it also means that targeting could be even more fraught for marketers trying to reach specific slices of the population.

“Targeting is still fairly limited on TikTok, so as the audience becomes more diverse, you can open yourself up to a lot of waste,” Melanie Nelson, associate director at media buying agency The Media Kitchen, told Adweek in May. “[If] you’re not an advertiser looking to reach Gen Z and millennials, male and female, all of a sudden you start looking at your budget and trying to calculate how much of that ad spend is going to waste.”

The competition for ad dollars was part TikTok’s first-ever presentation at the Digital Content NewFronts, when Chandlee said the company is doing a lot of “beta testing” with third-party measurement providers. Chandlee promised at the time to “deliver business outcomes.”

“We are a young company, and we’re getting there,” he said in the presentation.


@ScottNover scott.nover@adweek.com Scott Nover is a platforms reporter at Adweek, covering social media companies and their influence.
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