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Getting more reach for less is (nearly) impossible: Testing The TikTok Ad Tool

A report after three months of using the platform's ad tool

TikTok is one of the most-observed and most-discussed platforms in marketing circles at the moment. And yet, it is not open to everyone who would like to advertise on it—access to its self-serve tool is available on an invite-only basis. Social advertising expert Sebastian Vogg was one of the few to receive such an invite. In an exclusive article for OMR, he shared with us his initial experience and results from advertising on TikTok—and they make for an interesting read.

800 million users worldwide, of which 300 million are in the West with 21.5 in Europe’s key markets (UK, Spain, Italy, France and our home market of Germany, where there are 5.5m active daily users. Whoever has seen the most recent projected user stats will agree with me, for better or worse, that TikTok is much more than just a fun platform for kids and teens (even if we millennials and boomers were quite sceptical at first 😉).

Getting to know the advertising ecosystem

In addition to the branding formats on TikTok (for example the hashtag challenges), which can be booked through the TikTok sales team or partner agencies, TikTok now also has its own self-serve tool for more performance-oriented formats. Currently, the tool is exclusively invite-only but anyone may apply for an invite. I successfully applied for an invitation, which earned me the privilege and the honor of using the TikTok Ads Manager in self-serve mode (beta) for the past 3 months. I would like to summarize what I learned from this time and share my insights and KPIs with you.

Before we get started, however, let’s take a quick trip through the jungle of the TikTok Ad Manager and get to know the basic functions a bit better. First off, if you know your way around the Facebook Ads Manager, you will recognize many of the TikTok functions. Here are the first steps to getting started:

  • Sign up via a personalized invite link.
  • Then you set up your business account.
  • The next step consists of you creating an ad account or accounts, which is/are subject to review.
  • Payment is currently only available via credit and a fixed budget through your TikTok ads partner.
  • Usually, you are billed at the end of the month for your ad spend, agencies and service providers have to pay ahead of time or request the ad budget in advance.
  • If you want to advertise in Europe (and not in Asia), your ad account must be approved (whitelisted) for the EU markets currently served. This is done by simply writing an email to your contact person, including the ad account ID and the markets for which you wish to be whitelisted.
  • Just like on other platforms, there is a tracking tool used here—the TikTok Ads Pixel. (Very original, I know!)
  • To see if you have installed your TikTok pixel correctly, just check the (wait for it) TikTok Pixel Helper!
  • Third-party integration is also available through the Google Tag Manager. Here you just need to connect the Google account with your TikTok ad account (currently very “beta-like” unfortunately).
  • Right now, you can only measure conversions via page loads (URL) or button clicks (inline action), but without any additional parameters, e.g. value. Ad sets can only be built based on TikTok visitors, meaning you cannot create ad sets using your Facebook/Google user data.

How does the TikTok Ads Manager differ from the others?

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s look at how TikTok is different from and what it has in common with the other social media platforms. If you are a Facebook advertiser, you will be in familiar territory in the TikTok Ads Manager. There are many similarities and much will be self-explanatory to seasoned pros. Nevertheless, there are several unique features.

Features Similarities
Campaign Objectives Traffic, App Installs and Conversions
Ad Sets Targeting possibilities (demographic, geographic, etc.), additional placement options on other channels
Target URL is selected on the Ad Set level
Currently, no function is available to like an existing account
Ad Tags and Ad Category must be specified
Targeting Targeting based on interests not yet fully developed, currently only available when selecting Asia – Germany coming soon Custom & Lookalike Audiences
User comments can be deactivated Standard options like customer files, app activity, engagement & website traffic
Slightly modified lookalikes: Minimum budget of 20 euro
Ad formats & settings Assets are uploaded to the Ad level
Videos downloaded from TikTok cannot be uploaded due to subpar definition! (Workaround via videoleap
Text and CTA can be modified via initial selection of examples
Accurate measurement of campaign performance Use of URL parameters, e.g. for analysis in Google Analytics

 

Enough, Sebastian! Show me some hard figures, data and facts!

Fine, let’s get down to brass tacks: The figures and results you can expect on TikTok. To give you an impression (and to provide proof that what I’m saying isn’t far-fetched), I’ve provided screenshots of the four campaigns we carried out, each of which was aimed generating conversions. The first screenshot shows the campaign level.

  • Total ad spend: 522.43 euro
  • CPC (cost per click): 0.07 euro
  • CPM (cost per 1000 impressions): 0.38 euro
  • Total impressions: 1,377,443
  • Clicks: 7,753
  • CTR (click rate): 0.56 percent
  • Conversions: 1
  • CPA (Cost per action): 522.43 euro

(Click/tap to enlarge)

So, what do these figures tell us? First off, they tell us that TikTok offers an incredible amount of reach. 1.3 million impressions for 500 euro? That kind of performance is something you can only dream of on Facebook. No other platform figures to be able to deliver that kind of reach with that kind of budget.

What about conversions? We have to say quite clearly: Our database is not big enough to evaluate this. We’re also talking about top funnel campaigns here and a brand that’s not yet very strong on TikTok. With a product that’s better suited for TikTok and more budget it probably could work a lot better to generate conversions on TikTok.

The second screenshot from the TikTok Ads Manager shows the figures of different ad groups in a single campaign. These are:

  • Total ad spend: 1,108,82 euro
  • CPC (cost per click): 0.16 euro
  • CPM (cost per 1000 impressions): 1.53 euro
  • Total impressions: 726,382
  • Clicks: 7,040
  • CTR (click rate): 0.97 Prozent

(Click/tap to enlarge)

Here we can see the various Ad Groups and how they responded to the different Ad Sets. The campaign here centered around a creative that was a bit more “niche” (we addressed German speakers in the UK, Italy, France and Spain), which explains why fewer impressions were generated despite a bigger budget. While the click rate here is much better, the cost-per-click (CPC) is twice as high as in the previous example.

The bottom line after 3 months of using the TikTok Ads Manager

After 90 days of intense usage of the TikTok Ads Manager, I came to the overall conclusion that it’s (nearly) impossible to get more reach for less! Apart from the ridiculous organic reach that creators can get on TikTok: 1.3 million impressions for a spend of 500 euro?!?! If that’s not cheap, I don’t know what is.

That we weren’t able to generate a lot of conversions can probably be explained by our small budget and the advertised product. Other advertisers told me that they have been much more successful. By all means you shouldn’t refrain from trying out yourselves and book TikTok ads on conversions.

Again: My conclusion is based on a very small test without a big budget, so please form your own opinion and test the platform impartially if you can. If your content really fits into the fast moving style of TikTok, you will hopefully be singing in the audience cheer: TikTok on the clock but the party don’t stop, no!

Update, April 30th:

We revised the article as requested by the author.

About the author:

Sebastian Vogg

Sebastian Vogg is CEO of performance marketing agency Online Marketing Vogg. His agency works with Westwing, Truefruits and Motel One among others. Sebastian Vogg is a Facebook Marketing Partner for Technical Services, and a certified Facebook Blueprint Buying & Planning Professional.

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