As the advertising landscape evolves, it’s still essential to remember what goes into creating an effective ad. TikTok has opened up a new world of creative opportunities and content that is entertaining for viewers. Despite this innovation in marketing, TikTok ads are still carefully crafted with the same elements that were in TV ads 50 years ago. Creative elements such as memorable visuals, catchy jingles, and unforgettable characters can go a long way in making an ad stand out from the competition. To better understand how these elements can be cleverly combined to engage consumers, here is a breakdown of the most popular elements native to TikTok ads:

  • Sound: TikTok reports that 93% of users watch TikToks with the sound on— a powerful insight to show just how important sound elements are to capture audiences attention. In fact 9/10 users say sounds are vital to the TikTok experience and TikTok says audio of any kind boosts ad impressions! In the same report, TikTok ranked the most popular uses of sounds in ads, with music, voiceovers/narration and text-to-speech ranking respectfully.
  • Text/Captions: Most brands highlight call to actions through text in ads. Simple text boxes are used in over 86% of ads on TikTok, including text overlays and branding in the caption.
  • Calls to Action: Appearing as either a button or written copy, CTAs compel viewers to take action and direct traffic to an in-app landing page or ecomm landing page with the common text of “Shop now” or “Learn more”.
  • Creator/Talent: Letting creators and influencers create or star in your brand’s content helps humanize both the brand messaging and storytelling which in turn makes viewers feel more connected. This is also why most brands fuel or repurpose high-performing creator content into paid ads—because the content converts.
  • Hooks: A “hook” is the first thing said to capture the viewer’s attention. Brands have 1.7 seconds to grab a viewer’s attention before they scroll past, meaning good hooks like “Watch until the end” or “why is no one talking about ____?” are instrumental to boosting watch time.

All of these elements can be used to enhance viewer engagement and deliver key messages effectively. While TikTok offers users (and brands) the flexibility to create content with all these different creative elements, it is important to remember experimenting is part of the ad process. For example, a certain element or creative strategy could work very well for a beauty creator but the same strategy could fall short for a food & beverage brand. To help navigate the latest research on what goes into a successful TikTok ad, here are some best practices:

1. Pay attention to text and overlays
When it comes to text within TikTok ads, short bursts of text seems to be key. TikTok reports that including a title at the start of the video can lead to +48% brand recall, +45% brand affinity and +11 purchase intent. Additionally, researchers discovered that 5-10 words/sec is the prime timing for introducing text and can result in an average +2.1X lift in awareness. This New balance Ad below is a great example of how fast-flashing text can lead to increased watch time and hold viewer attention, especially when text transitions time to the beat of the music.

2. Include a CTA early on
In a recent analysis of over 4,000 TikTok ads, it was found that over 80% of top intent campaigns used a call-to-action prompt. Further, it was found that having a CTA present in the opening frame leads to a +44% conversion lift vs. when it is shown later on in the video.

3. Humanize your brand
People are drawn to stories that feel human. Further, TikTok found that how much of human elements are present in TikTok ads make a significant impact. According to TikTok research, framing the talent’s face to fill < 20% of the screen has shown a +31% lift in consideration, compared to when their face fills > 20% of the screen. This TikTok ad example showcases the increased audience connection when the framing is more impromptu (like a FaceTime video) vs. broadly framed like a TV commercial.

4. Stick to simplicity
Research suggests that when creators stick to simplicity and authenticity, their content outperforms content that is over-produced or heavy with filters or special effects! Mobile-shot content has a 63% chance of outperforming a studio-shot ad. In this campaign example below by Imperfect Foods, creators filmed product unboxings that featured a simple CTA at the end of each video. The casual home environment and simple filming style helped relate to the target audience. The campaign drove a 57% higher conversion and 30% higher reach than Imperfect Foods’ previous benchmarks on TikTok.

5. Don’t rule out special effects
Special effects and transitions are some of the core entertainment elements of TikTok. While no one wants a chaotic-feeling TikTok ad, experimenting with the perfect balance of transitions and effects can work in your brand’s favor to make a mesmerizing TikTok ad while still retaining authenticity. If it makes sense for your brand, “surprising” and “fun” transitions reportedly return a +53% uplift in brand recall according to TikTok. In this ad example from Crocs, the lively transitions, vibrant colors and authentically filmed creator content all work in harmony to make a memorable video.

6. Leverage UGC for ads
Not only is user-generated content (UGC) generally more cost-effective than brand-produced content, UGC-based ads get 4X the clicks for 50% less ad spend. It’s also reported that TikTok UGC videos could encode emotion 22% better than brand videos. For engaged consumers, creating UGC allows them to be a part of a brand’s community. By repurposing high-performing UGC assets into social ads, brand’s work to build brand recognition, provide social proof, and drive consumer trust and loyalty.

Goli®, a leading nutrition company, was looking for a way to leverage authentic UGC to promote their product on TikTok. Partnering with Social Native, Goli® found native TikTok creators who could create two types of storytelling frameworks to test: 1) a product ‘Taste Test’ tutorial and 2) a ‘Health Tips’ edutainment focus. The ‘Taste Test’ framework and creative concept used across the Social Native network beat Goli’s CTR benchmarks by 49% and boosted positive sentiment for the brand on TikTok, further proving the value of creator-powered ads for CPG brands.

7. Show off your brand
Especially in the first 2 seconds of a TikTok ad, showcasing branding and product is key for ad recall and awareness. Below, this TikTok ad from Cetaphil does a great job of showcasing product in a creative way to keep viewers entertained while communicating brand identity. Cetaphil was eager to capture new user attention on TikTok and partnered with Social Native to find creators to fuel content for both in-feed and One Day Max ads. The campaign delivered over a 18.4% lift in ad recall and a 5.4% lift in brand awareness.

Brands should think carefully about their target audience, the message they’re trying to convey, and the type of sound and visuals that will work best for their goals. Having a clear strategy from the beginning is key to making sure your content stands out and resonates with viewers. With careful consideration given to each element, you can create powerful campaigns on TikTok that truly make a lasting impact.

Happy creating!

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