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News Analysis 26 Jun 2020 - 3 min read

Leaving Instagram for TikTok: Australia's first specialist TikTok shop plays brand building card for younger set; BMW bites

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

Launching a local Australian office and nabbing two former Google execs to lead the charge, fast-growing social media player TikTok is preparing to bring major brands on-board to take advantage of Australia’s near 1.6m user base. Meanwhile, tech and media duo Lucio Ribeiro and Sergio Brodsky have jumped early, launching a dedicated end-to-end advisory and execution firm with BMW-Mini first out of the blocks.

What you need to know:

  • Video sharing platform TikTok is revving up operations down under, appointing former Google execs Brett Armstrong (Commercial Lead) and Lee Hunter (Country Lead).
  • The office, based in Sydney, is currently on a hiring run with 22 roles advertised in recent weeks and sources claiming another slew of postings are inevitable.
  • The app now boasts a user base of close to 1.6m strong in Australia alone.
  • 25% of TikTok users are said to not be currently active across any other social media. 
  • Despite being perceived as a youth-led social media, over 60% of the audience is over the age of 18, with half of this number in the 25-34 age bracket. 
  • Rising Australian market interest has triggered tech and media duo Lucio Ribeiro and Sergio Brodsky to launch Australia's first dedicated full-service TikTok agency for AUNZ.
  • The two have already launched the first local automotive campaign in Australia for Mini and are currently in talks with retail brands and a superannuation player.
  • Ribeiro told Mi3 brands shouldn't view the platform through traditional reach metrics but instead as an exercise in building brand equity
  • TikTok, he says, is not another social media player but a channel in its own right, comparing its launch and rapid success to the original concept of cable TV


...goes the clock

"Competitive positivity", "virality facilitation" and a unique audience.

New buzzwords for a booming new social platform are inevitable and they've started. But these new additions to the media and marketing lexicon are the three key differentials TikMyDay, Australia’s first dedicated TikTok consultancy, says separate the short-form video platform from the online duopoly of Facebook and Google.

Seeing an early market gap, founders Lucio Ribeiro and Sergio Brodsky have launched the business to handle the end-to-end execution of campaigns.

Currently boasting close to 1.6m Australian users, TikTok has becoming an online juggernaut, as its less-than-a-minute-long content creates viral trends and draws big-name celebrities into major partnership deals.

TikTok's current monthly active user base is estimated at 800 million and in Q1 of 2020, the app had 315 million downloads, setting a new record for the most app downloads in a quarter.

It is understood that 25% of TikTok users are not currently active across any other social media. 

Despite being perceived as a youth-led social media, over 60% of the audience are over the age of 18, with half of this number in the 25-34 age bracket. 

Unlike other algorithms, TikTok promotes content based on what it feels is most relevant to the users interests, rather than the accounts they follow.

Popstar Jennifer Lopez has been consistently propped up as an example of how the algorithm proves its value, with a post made in March this year that attracted 161 million views from her follower base of 10.2 million.

“On the surface, TikTok bears a strong resemblance to many social media apps. The app is built around short 60-second video clips created by users. The app makes use of hashtags and filters,” Ribeiro says.

“But a deeper look reveals a sophisticated algorithm to ramp up the experience. TikTok’s algorithm does not just recommend content for users to watch — it also recommends content for users to create, supplying a running catalog of viral hashtags, challenges, and memes for users to imitate.”

This is the second play in social media pie by Ribeiro, who during the early days of the Instagram obsession ran a similar business, The Online Circle.

With experience building stylised campaigns for both, Ribeiro says there are distinct opportunities for TikTok to nab some of the media dollars tied up in the duopoly.

Brodsky says the key to this is the products pitch of being “engineered for virality”

“The top 50 content creators on TikTok have more followers than the populations of Mexico, Canada, the UK, and Australia combined,” he says. There are a few different native formats, with targeting capabilities going from demographics to interest and custom audience.”

“There are some unique opportunities to the channel, like ‘challenges’ where brands can engage content creators to create at scale and tap into cultural experience. Brands can create these challenges and then work with TikTok creators to amplify the content.”

While facing increasing scrutiny around user data breaches and leaks and links to the Chinese government, TikTok has so far been well received as a platform that promotes positivity versus the outrage culture that is fostered by rival social media players.


Facilitating conversation, not broadcasting messages

Speaking to Mi3, TikTok's commercial boss for Australia, Brett Armstrong, says the advice he usually gives marketers and advertisers is to use it is a platform for "creative, fun and positive experiences".

This is in-line with a lot of the rhetoric that comes out of the platform's global headquarters, which has been positioning itself outside of the traditional realms of social media.

Armstrong, a former Google exec and most recently the digital giant's head of media agencies for ANZ, says the brands he sees having the most success are those embracing the "creativity and authenticity" of the TikTok community.

"For your campaign to work on TikTok, all you really need is an open mind, a good idea, and a willingness to forget the traditional rules of advertising and marketing," he says.

"We're not broadcasting a message so much as facilitating a conversation. We encourage brands to spend time using TikTok, understanding the platform and short-video formats, looking at different trends and content, and getting a sense of how users engage with other creators and brands."

BMW's automotive brand Mini recently became the first in its sector to use the platform locally, utilising TikMyDay's offering to launch the campaign.

Ribeiro says the majority of the content was repurposed video from an existing campaign for the brand, however, the platform offers several options for inventory.

One of the most common is the "challenge" campaign. Brands pay to setup and initial piece of launch content, which usually features a celebrity or influencer partnership.

The brand then sets a hashtag and challenge which encourages uses to submit their own versions using the original hashtag.

Brands that have launched localised campaigns, opting for this option, include Optus, which during lockdown ran a branded hashtag challenge called #NewInterns.

This was followed with a 'reunion dance' challenge, #YeahWeBack, to celebrate restrictions being gradually lifted.

Armstrong says the platform also worked with Milo on a hashtag challenge to get people outside and moving.

The platform also allows for the purchase of exclusive video placement in between video streams, similar to mid-roll advertising. This is purchased off via a bidding structure and price is optimised based on time and placement.

"As a brand looking to build a presence on TikTok, it takes more than simply being where your audience is - it takes understanding how to communicate in a way that resonates with them," Armstrong says.

"Best practices for brands would be to stay true to their story, telling it how they want it told, while also thinking about TikTok's unique format, ensuring that content is authentic to the platform and the way people use it."


Agency interaction, early reservations

Armstrong says marketers are already engaging with the platform locally through agencies, consultants and directly.

He says there is already an established team of brand partners and strategists in the new Sydney office that work with brands to develop campaigns that speak to TikTok's global and local community. 

"That part is really up to the brand to decide. But the beauty of TikTok, on the user side as well as for marketing, is that it makes creativity effortless," Armstrong says.

"The platform is very easy to use and enables anyone to capture, create and consume right within the app. You don't need expensive equipment or editing tools, you don't need to spend a lot of money producing something slick and glossy.

Armstrong says the brands that succeed on TikTok have been those who understand the "uniqueness" of the platform.

Brodsky and Ribeiro attest to the simple and efficient means of using the platform for advertising purposes.

They say it can take less than an hour to find the right fit for a client and develop a draft media plan for the platform. From there, it takes less than 24-hours, dependent on content requirements, to have the campaign up and running.

However, one industry insider told Mi3 that clients and agencies were still hesitant to use the platform, seeing it as an "obscure, ineffective and hard to measure media channel".

Ribeiro says this is because agencies most likely only look at it as an extension of other social media offering. He says it should be viewed as a shake-up to the norm, similar to cable TV.

"The industry needs to see it as something separate from regular social media. It should stand as a channel on its own, similar to cable TV when it launched," he says.

"It's not 'creepy' and it's not interested in you the user as an identity but the content you enjoy. The control is with the viewer. All TikTok does is determine the most relevant content worth serving to users based on what they elect to watch."

As for measurement, Ribeiro says it's important marketers understand that while it's a channel with huge reach opportunity, the real value is in brand equity.

He says the app is still in its early days and has massive potential to engrain brands within the cultural and viral aspects of it.

"Right now its about establishing yourself as a brand alongside the app, the content creators and audience," Ribeiro says. "With Mini, it's not about hard conversions to the site or short-term sales, it's about long-term brand building with a captive audience that will eventually consider them when the time to purchase arrives."

"It's easy to take the reach view but where the value of TikTok lies is in association - association with positive conversations, viral trends and celebrity culture and if a brand can be emersed in that, it's going to drive better brand equity outcomes."

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Josh McDonnell

Senior Writer

Market Voice

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