‘Ignore all of the politics’: Confessions of a DTC exec on the continued uncertainty of TikTok

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TikTok’s future in the U.S. remains uncertain as the details of the deal with Oracle and Walmart continues to be hammered out. The on-going drama has led some marketers to tune out the news as threats of a ban have not come to fruition. Recently, marketers and media buyers had started to take the possible ban more seriously after President Trump ordered a stop to new downloads of the app. But after that was struck down by a federal judge, some believe the likelihood of the app being bounced from the U.S. is dwindling.

For marketers already invested in the platform, that means it’s business as usual. In the latest edition of our Confessions series, in which we trade anonymity for candor, we hear from a marketing exec for a direct-to-consumer brand who’s full steam ahead on TikTok and who has decided to ignore the politics surrounding the app.

This conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.

With all the back and forth that’s gone on with TikTok, do you still feel like it’s a platform to focus on? 

In the beginning we were all really worried like, ‘Oh my gosh it might get shut down. What’s going to happen? We need a plan B.’ But now there’s been so much drama [and no action] we think the channel will stay. We’re just operating as business as usual. We’re trying to ignore all of the politics. 

How much of your media budget is dedicated to TikTok?

About 40% of our influencer budget is spent on TikTok, which is quite a lot. It’s a lot of exposure, but again our bet is that it’s just too big of a channel to go away. We’re going to maintain our spend. But I did at one point have the team come up with a plan B in the event that it would be shut off. It would go into Instagram and YouTube — do more experimentation. 

The Trump Administration has said if a deal can’t be reached that TikTok will be shut down. But you’re still spending and bullish on it. What makes you confident that it will remain?  

Downloads were supposed to be turned off on a few Sundays ago and then a judge said that was illegal and an overreach of presidential power. I know the leadership and government has made a lot of threats, but I’m not sure how plausible they are. We’ve already seen that the courts have intervened and put some rational thinking back into it. It’s just a lot of politics. Also, we don’t know what’s going to happen with the election.

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In the end, it feels like a lot of hot air to make this administration look like they’re being tough on China. They keep threatening it but nothing has happened. The bluff has happened so many times and it still hasn’t been banned that I now don’t think it’s going to happen. 

Do you talk to other DTC execs about TikTok?

Yeah, a lot of brand founders are deprioritizing it for now just to see how things settle before really taking bets with the platform. We’re already really invested in the platform, but if I weren’t [I could see not spending now as] I understand that perspective. You don’t want to start investing in something that could go away. For a lot of DTC founders it’s still unknown territory. 

Overall, how do you feel about this situation where a platform you’re heavily invested in could be shut off any moment?

It’s frustrating. In the beginning, I was a lot more swayed by the news but now I just tune it out. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. It would be such a shame if it got banned, but until it does we’re just keeping our heads down. 

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