2022 Best Marketers: TikTok – AdAge.com

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A visitor takes photos of TikTok’s location at Cannes earlier this year
If you’re a marketer, odds are you have TikTok on your phone.
And understandably so. The app has taken the marketing world by storm, becoming a core part of brand strategies and forcing other platforms to step up their short-form video offerings. Its creators have become household faces, and many have helped brands reach their communities in new, often funnier or sassier, ways. TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, also turned industry heads this year by becoming the lead sponsor of VidCon, a spot usually held by YouTube. And as the rest of Silicon Valley is shedding employees, TikTok reportedly has plans to double its staff in Mountain View, California, to approximately 2,000 people.
See all of Ad Age’s 2022 Marketers of the Year here.
Over time, TikTok’s message to brands and agencies has matured. “In the early days, we were saying, ‘Don’t make ads, make TikToks,’” said Sofia Hernandez, TikTok’s global head of business marketing. “We’ve evolved from that. Now it’s about the ‘how.’ How to make good creative that will make people stop, how to build a full-funnel strategy that has an impact on business.”
“Over the last year, we’ve seen that TikTok has allowed brands to think of themselves more and more as entertainment properties,” said Geoffrey Goldberg, co-founder and chief creative officer at Movers+Shakers, which has worked with brands including E.l.f. Cosmetics, Amazon and VistaPrint on TikTok strategy. “They are showing up in more fun ways, using humor to help build those stories.”
TikTok has also disrupted other platforms. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has cited TikTok in quarterly earnings calls for siphoning away users, while Instagram has attempted to address the TikTok threat by leaning heavily into Reels (which didn’t sit well with the Kardashians). Over the summer, a Google exec admitted that almost 40% of young people use TikTok for search over Google, a stat that has caught marketers’ attention.
“That increase in search usage, that could be big,” said Jamie Falkowski, chief creative officer at Day One Agency. “Say someone is trying to find out what credit card is right for them, brands will want to be there. They want to reach that next generation of customers.” 
TikTok’s global net ad revenue is projected to hit nearly $10 billion this year, up from $3.8 billion in 2021, according to Insider Intelligence.
The app experienced a bit of uncertainty at the start of the year with the sudden departure of Nick Tran, global head of marketing. At the time, TikTok said that it wanted to return to basics in its marketing strategy and focus more on its creators. The role was filled in October by Kate Jhaveri, the NBA’s former marketing chief.
But right now, TikTok is focused on becoming more of a shopping platform. The app tested a “Shop” tab in India and piloted a live shopping program in the U.K. TikTok also has reportedly started testing a “Shop” tab in the U.S. with a few invited brands.
“Brands have dived into TikTok for top-of-funnel awareness,” said Hernandez. “But the reality is, brands are already selling on TikTok, and #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt is still growing. We know that users say, ‘Yes, I saw that on TikTok and it made me take action.’ So we are focusing on that behavior that already exists.”
Hernandez adds that the app is continuing to look at ways that creators can monetize on the platform. It added a new ad format called Branded Mission to help cut down on the unrelated content generated by hashtag challenges, and to help connect brands to smaller creators who might not yet have the 10,000 followers needed to become part of the TikTok Creator Marketplace.
Overall, the TikTok algorithm surfaces a diverse set of creators, giving marketers wider—and sometimes unexpected—options on who they can choose to represent them on the app.
One such creator is Emily Zugay, whose deadpan logo redesigns had brands lining up to request makeovers. Zugay has 3.8 million followers and 100 million likes—and she is still the only person that Microsoft Windows follows on TikTok. Another is Khaby Lame, the silent Senegalese-Italian TikTokker (152 million followers, 2.5 billion likes) who used to be a factory worker. He has partnered with brands including Pepsi, Google and Boss. 
TikTok still faces some murky waters. The Trump administration had tried and failed to either ban the app or have it become part of an American company, but data-security concerns related to TikTok’s Chinese ownership keep resurfacing. The app is being investigated by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is looking into ByteDance’s 2017 acquisition of Musical.ly, which then merged with TikTok. And in November, FCC commissioner Brendan Carr called for the app to be banned.
And yet it is now hard to imagine a world without TikTok—or the media-consumption phenomenon that the app unleashed.
“It has ushered in a new era of short-form video in social media in general,” said Day One’s Falkowski. “Reels and [YouTube] Shorts won’t go away anytime soon.” 
See all of Ad Age’s 2022 Marketers of the Year here.
In this article:
Erika Wheless is a technology reporter covering social media platforms, influencers, and esports. She was previously the e-commerce reporter for Digiday, and is a graduate of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism.


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