Future of TV Briefing: TikTok’s other creator monetization program

The lead image shows an illustration of money with the TikTok logo in the center.

This Future of TV Briefing covers the latest in streaming and TV for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

This week’s Future of TV Briefing looks at the role TikTok’s Branded Missions program plays in keeping creators on the platform as YouTube readies its short-form video revenue-sharing program.

  • Money Toks
  • Bob Iger’s big plans, AMC Networks’ layoffs, Google’s NFL interception and more

Money Toks

The key hits:

  • TikTok’s Branded Mission program has creators produce videos on spec for brands in return for potential payment.
  • Some creators have received more than $2,000 per Branded Mission.
  • However, the program seems designed to appeal to smaller creators unlikely to attract brand deals directly.

TikTok’s two best-known means for creators to make money from the platform are its controversial payment program Creator Fund and its fledgling revenue-sharing program Pulse. But TikTok has another monetization program that is serving as revenue-generating training wheels for up-and-coming creators.

A couple weeks after announcing Pulse in May, TikTok introduced its Branded Mission program that effectively turned creators into creative agencies for brands. A brand would post a brief describing the types of videos it was looking for creators to produce, then creators produce those videos and submit them to the brand. If the brand chooses to run a given video as an ad on TikTok, the creator is eligible to be paid for their work. 

TikTok’s Branded Mission program is more grunt work than glamor, though. It’s producing branded content on spec, and creators have spun up Discord servers dedicated to tracking when new Branded Mission briefs are posted so they can quickly pounce on the money-making opportunity. “You kind of do have to fight for it,” said one creator.

Like I said, not glamorous. But it pays. According to two TikTok creators, the Branded Mission payment amounts they receive per month have increased from $300-400 to $5,000-6,000 in the past several months. One of the creators shared screenshots with Digiday showing payment amounts for individual Branded Missions that exceeded $2,000.

A second creator said the monthly Branded Mission payment amounts have exceeded the wages they receive from their day job. “On paper, like on bank statements, I get more money from TikTok a month than from working,” they said, declining to specify their day job.

TikTok’s Branded Mission money doesn’t appeal to all creators, though. Creators who have amassed millions of followers can attract their own brand deals, enabling them to negotiate and ensure that they are compensated for their work. 

“To just do the work and then submit it, we would never allow our people to do that,” said Brian Mandler, co-founder of talent management firm The Network Effect.

The Branded Mission program “asks talent to create content for a campaign without a guarantee of being selected or compensated. Payment is based on boosting content that has already been produced,” said Charley Button, talent manager at talent management firm Select Management Group. “We work with top creators who are in high demand, so they receive offers without needing to apply. For our clients, it’s difficult for Branded Missions to compete with guaranteed revenue from a standard branded content deal.”

However, both Mandler and Button said that the Branded Mission program seems suited to so-called “micro-influencers,” or creators with follower counts in the tens to low hundreds of thousands. Creators in this category have a sizable audience but typically not one large enough to gain the attention of brands looking to do direct deals. Indeed, the two creators interviewed for this article have TikTok follower counts in the low hundreds of thousands.

“There are literally millions of creators that have a fair amount of [followers] that are looking to start making money on TikTok that this is great for,” said Mandler.

“This new tool might be more helpful for growing creators who are looking to develop relationships with brands or creators who might not otherwise receive an offer,” said Button.

However, even for the class of creators seemingly best suited for Branded Mission work, there are pros and cons. 

For example, while Branded Missions can pay well, not all creators may get paid. The creators who spoke to Digiday have more than 100,000 followers and have received payment for Branded Missions, but they said they know creators with less than 100,000 followers who have submitted videos that were selected for Branded Missions but did not receive payment. A TikTok spokesperson said that creators must have at least 1,000 followers to participate and receive payment for Branded Missions.

Additionally, creators can receive boosts in view and follower counts as a result of their videos being selected for Branded Missions, but the audience increase can be somewhat superficial. “Every time I do a Branded Mission, I get the video views, you get the followers, I get all that. The downside is that most of the time it will be people that are not interested in your content at all,” said the second creator. They cited one Branded Mission from which they gained roughly 5,000 new followers but estimated that less than 1,000 were interested in the creator’s content category.

But again, the money. With YouTube preparing to debut the revenue-sharing program for its TikTok Clone, Shorts, in early February, TikTok may be feeling some urgency to convince creators to prioritize its short-form vertical video platform. And while the creators acknowledged they cannot count on the Branded Mission program to be a reliable recurring revenue stream, they see it as a signal that TikTok is trying to improve its financial support of them.

“It’s been probably the biggest accomplishment with me and TikTok money-wise,” said the first creator.

What we’ve heard

“Auto has been a great vertical. We’re starting to see some travel [ad dollars] come in as things heat up for the holiday season and spring break’s not far away. We’ve seen the crypto piece slow down with everything going on there. We have seen retail pick up, which makes sense given the holidays are around the corner.”

Streaming executive on the Q4 ad market

Numbers to know

$23.9 billion: How much money streaming service owners will spend on content this year, compared to $51.6 billion that linear TV network owners will spend on content.

64%: Percentage share of original scripted streaming shows that are based on established intellectual property.

$240 billion: The reported valuation of TikTok owner ByteDance as existing investors seek to sell their shares in the company.

47%: Percentage share of U.S. adults who plan to give streaming video subscriptions as gifts this year.

>$1 billion: How much money Amazon plans to spend per year on movies that will be released in theaters.

What we’ve covered

Arm & Hammer enlists TikTok influencers to help millennials, Gen Z with holiday laundry:

  • The brand is working a handful of TikTok creators for a family-facing holiday campaign.
  • Arm & Hammer chose to focus on TikTok instead of Instagram and Twitter.

Read more about Arm & Hammer here.

Why American Express invests in TikTok ahead of Small Business Saturday:

  • Participating small businesses were eligible to receive $100 in TikTok ad credits after spending $50.
  • TikTok videos featuring the hashtag #ShopSmall had nearly 5 billion views.

Read more about American Express here.

TV will play an important part in brands’ holiday marketing:

  • 23% of brand professionals surveyed by Digiday said they plan to use TV ads as part of their holiday marketing strategy this year.
  • 17% of surveyed brand professionals said they will use CTV and streaming ads.

Read more about brands’ holiday marketing here.

What we’re reading

Bob Iger’s big plans:
Disney’s new-old CEO told employees on Monday that his streaming focus will shift from growing subscribers to achieving profitability and that the company won’t be pursuing any major acquisitions, according to CNBC.

Disney’s next CEO:
Bob Iger is only one week into his two-year term, but considering his previous struggles to establish a successor, Puck has put together a scouting report of who could be next in line.

AMC Networks’ layoffs:
AMC Networks will lay off 20% of its U.S. employees, and its CEO Christina Spade has left the company less than three months after taking the position, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Google’s NFL interception:
Google is attempting to win rights to the NFL’s Sunday Ticket games package away from perceived frontrunner Apple, according to The New York Times.

YouTube’s child stars:
More kids are taking to the Google-owned video platform to copy the playbook of Ryan Kaji, whose Ryan’s World channel has blown up into a business spanning traditional TV and commerce, according to The Wall Street Journal.


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