TikTok makes inroads with UK publishers, advertisers

U.K. publishers are betting on short-form video platform TikTok as a new way to reach younger audiences.

For the last 18 months, U.K. publishers like the BBC, MTV and Kyra TV have been exploring ways to use the platform either as an incubator for talent, a route to TV or as a content distribution partner. Meanwhile, TikTok is staffing up and beginning to run ad campaigns in the U.K.

Last year, the BBC commissioned shows fronted by talent from TikTok with a two-part series featuring 14-year twins and TikTok creators Max and Harvey Mills for the BBC’s kids channel, CBBC. The twins, whose TikTok following amounts to 6 million, chronicle their lives and growing careers on the show.

“Max & Harvey are stars of TikTok, so it is great that the talent can perform both digitally, on platforms like TikTok, and on linear TV,” said Helen O’Donnell, head of development, Talentworks, BBC Studios.

MTV is also eyeing TikTok talent to work with on upcoming shows, and last November partnered with the platform to stream the MTV European Music Awards in Bilbao, Spain.

“The growth of TikTok is very exciting; it incorporates the viral nature of Vine and merges together the interactive elements of Snapchat,” said Devran Karaca, co-founder of British video publisher Kyra TV, who met with the platform recently. “Young digital natives are really taking advantage of the interactive tools and using them to create interesting and original short videos.”

TikTok, and its parent Chinese tech company ByteDance, is now on a hiring spree in London, with over 40 job roles on offer on LinkedIn, posted in the last month. According to LinkedIn, 30 people working for TikTok are in the U.K. A bulk of the new job roles are for content moderators in different European languages (including French, Danish, Romanian and Ukrainian), but the company is also staffing up its brand partnerships team, according to posts on LinkedIn.

A pitch deck obtained by Digiday that was circulated to U.K. agencies last November states that the platform has 3.7 million monthly users in the U.K. who spend on average 41 minutes in the app daily. This is still less time than on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, (SimilarWeb stats from U.S. usage on Android last July found people spent 58.5 minutes a day on Facebook, 53 minutes on Instagram and 49.5 minutes on Snapchat). But TikTok is experiencing much faster growth than other platforms that are closer to reaching saturation.

The platform began testing ads in the app in the U.S and the U.K. in January, and currently has four ad formats advertisers can buy.

“In the last month, interest has really picked up,” said Ana Thorsdottir, head of influencer strategy U.K. and worldwide at Mediacom, which hosted TikTok for breakfast last week. In the U.K., Mediacom is launching its first campaign on TikTok in the coming weeks for a major consumer goods brand. The content will feature influencers from the platform to coincide with the brand’s paid spend on the platform. According to U.S. reports, the cost for brand takeover ads range between $50,000 and $100,000.

According to Thorsdottir, creating a video on TikTok with an influencer costs five times less than it would on Instagram.

“Influencers are exceptionally cheap on TikTok. That will change drastically in the next six months, but now we’re in a position to take advantage of that,” she said.

When contacted for this story TikTok said it had no updates to share.

This month, the platform also kicked off its largest global campaign to date earlier this month with Sony Pictures for the thriller “Escape Room,” where TikTok creators from eight countries recorded their experiences in escape style challenges, streaming them on the platform. This month, the platform appointed U.K. media agency Total Media to handle its ad campaign across all channels in the U.K., France and Germany.

The decline in Facebook use for younger audiences opens up space for a new platform, particularly one focused on video, and publishers are attracted to the dwell times on TikTok and faster growth of the app compared to others.

“With the decline of Facebook amongst a younger audience, there is definitely space for a new player in the game to live alongside Instagram, which basically has a monopoly on social media right now,” said Karaca.


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