Inside comedy channel Dave’s TikTok strategy

U.K. comedy TV channel Dave, home to shows like “Red Dwarf” and “Taskmaster,” is the latest broadcaster to enlist TikTok to market its shows to a fast-growing audience of younger creative types.

On Friday Dave launched a TikTok campaign to promote a new TV show, “Hypothetical,” which is scheduled to debut on Wednesday. The show presents comedians with hypothetical situations and scores them on how well they spontaneously deal with them. The TikTok campaign, called #hypotheticalchallenge, features creators, procured by influencer marketing agency Fanbytes; they have taken on a challenge similar to those on the show. Dave’s goal: encouraging audience interaction and participation.

“TikTok is the best place for ‘Hypothetical’ because the user behavior fits perfectly with the show premise,” said Erina Jones, who is head of social media at UKTV, broadcaster of Dave. “It’s the right place to activate; we’re enabling others to create content and be [part of] their own TV shows” on TikTok.

For a lot of companies and publishers that are flocking to use the platform, TikTok represents a fast-growing, fertile ground for young creative users. Each month TikTok has 800 million active users, with about half of them being younger than age 34, according to Hubspot. UKTV executives are keen to diversify their channel’s following online where viewers are moving quickly between platforms.

As well as considering views, likes and shares, Dave managers are measuring the success of this TikTok campaign by counting the number of user-generated posts created in response to the challenges. So far, two creators have filmed challenges tied to the show, with each drawing 3,000 to 4,000 likes. Dave’s TikTok profile, which has been live for just two weeks, is still in a fledgling stage; the account has attracted only 1,000 likes and 500 followers in total and produced just nine videos. The number of likes for each of these videos is merely in the hundreds. These Dave-produced videos exude an irreverent tone, much like what’s on its shows. One TikTok video created by the Dave team features origami swans made of Dave-branded T-shirts. Dave plans to publish on TikTok five videos a week, with one or two tied to “Hypothetical” and the others bolstering the Dave channel’s overall brand.

Jones said she is aware that engaging users on TikTok represents a long-term play for Dave and building an audience takes time. Although companies and publishers have touted the huge numbers of viewers on TikTok, few case studies have tied such figures to the achievement of business objectives.

“Everything we do feeds into our channel brand tracker,” Jones said, referring to the UKTV research team’s method for measuring branding performance. “A big priority for us will be to tie social [media] back to business goals.”

A handful of broadcasters like the BBC (which airs “The Greatest Dancer“) and ITV (known for “Love Island“) are dabbling in TikTok use. But even though they have a wealth of video content at their disposal, U.K. broadcasters have been slower than print publishers and other advertisers to adopt the platform, said Timothy Armoo, Fanbytes’ CEO.

“Most people aren’t nimble,”Armoo said. “TikTok requires an understanding of a new platform that has burst onto the scene, so that requires an organizational change. It’s interesting to see those who jump in and those who don’t.”

Added Armoo: “Apart from [channels] like Dave, most broadcasters aren’t [using TikTok], but a ton of direct-to-consumer and e-commerce brands are. That’s just due to the [need for] speed of execution.”

For its eight channels, UKTV has a social media team of 11 people who create content for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and now TikTok. Dave is UKTV’s most popular channel on social media. Right now Dave doesn’t monetize any of its social media work as is hasn’t been the priority for now.

“The primary purpose of social media is to drive talkability,” Jones said. “If we drive engagement and word-of-mouth, then we can ultimately drive tune in.”

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Last year executives at Dave detected some evidence that social media campaigns can attract linear viewing: In a partnership with the Campaign Against Living Miserably charity to raise awareness about suicide by men, Dave ran messages and videos on Twitter that invited people to view its 9:09 p.m. takeover of a commercial break on TV; at that time the broadcaster showed a video that urged people to reach out to a friend. By 9:08 p.m., an additional 122,000 adult viewers had tuned in to the channel (a 73% increase over the number who had already been watching). Dave attributed this to its Twitter promotion.

Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Dave doesn’t monetize social media work due to its agreements with broadcaster Channel 4, which handles Dave’s ad sales. Channel 4 only handles Dave’s linear TV sales.  

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