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TikTok is coming to Cannes, but don’t expect a Ferris wheel.
The team behind the ad industry’s latest shiny object has focused its presence with panels — one on the main stage and two at the new “CLX” space — and other intimate meetings with brands and agencies. A “small team” of executives from TikTok’s parent company ByteDance and TikTok will host along with some top TikTok creators, said Stefan Heinrich, marketing director, at TikTok U.S.
“Cannes is a great opportunity for us to connect with some of the most creative people in the industry and work together on crafting stories for a new generation. We’ve learned a lot building TikTok into a platform that inspires millions of creative, fun, positive and inspirational short-form videos daily, and we’re excited to exchange ideas and new unconventional approaches to marketing with a community that’s working passionately to shape digital culture,” Heinrich said.
This is the first time Heinrich, who previously worked in marketing at YouTube, is speaking at Cannes. It’s also ByteDance and TikTok’s first time at the annual ad festival. While ByteDance was founded in 2012, the Chinese tech company gained attention in the U.S. and Europe over the last year after merging with Musical.ly in August 2018. The app started testing ads in January and has been pitching agencies on its current products. TikTok also has a self-serve platform in beta.
At Cannes, the focus of TikTok’s presentations and meetings will be on marketing trends with the “next generation” and “how unconventional thinking can help brands as they try to connect with new audiences,” Heinrich said.
Sixty percent of TikTok’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the U.S. are 16 to 24 years old, as of a February pitch deck. TikTok’s young audience has been of one advertisers’ main interests in the platform, said Renelly Morel, social activation director at Essence.
“We have clients asking questions about the platform, undeniable truth of its growth in the marketplace and also where it sits in terms of the audience. Clients are hungry to reach that Gen Z user base,” Morel said.
But participating in TikTok isn’t simple. Despite the fact that the videos tend to be 15 seconds or less, success is driven by creativity. To explain the process, TikTok is bringing along creators, including Anna O’Brien and Andrea Okeke (aka Drea KnowsBest), to describe their interest in and work on TikTok. Earlier this year, the company launched a creator charm offensive as it looks to build a community to not only pitch the value of the app but also to provide feedback for product development.
“What better way to learn than from the creators making an impact with their communities in a real and authentic way. We’ll also be hosting a few roundtables at CLX, where we have an interactive lounge for attendees to take a break from meetings, sit back and enjoy some of our favorite TikTok videos,” Heinrich said.
Unlike Snapchat with its Ferris wheel in 2017 and other lavish parties and events hosted by platforms and media companies, TikTok is going a little less flashy. The CLX venue features several other big tech players, including Activision, Adobe, Amazon/Huge, Microsoft, NBCUniversal and iHeartRadio.
“The fact TikTok is bringing on board content creators to have those conversations with brands and advertisers is super interesting. They’re approaching it in an authentic way instead of being big and splashy. Here’s how the content is being made, here’s the approach,” Morel said.
But advertisers are wary of TikTok due to its focus on user-generated content, which presents brand safety concerns. Mattias Spetz, managing director EMEA of Channel Factory, said he expected that issue to come up on panels and in private meetings.
“Advertisers are putting brand safety high up on the agenda, especially the need to define how important brand suitability is to their digital marketing. The arrival of TikTok at Cannes might well fuel this discussion further. We will certainly be interested to hear the views of TikTok and their approach to ensuring brand safety in Cannes,” Spetz said.