Promoted content

17 December 2020

Roundtable: TikTok X Contagious 

Unlocking the creative and commercial power of TikTok

At Most Contagious 2020, we hosted a roundtable of advertising professionals to discuss the creative and commercial opportunities of TikTok. The discussion centered on the platform’s built-in tools for brands, the importance of native content, best practice for partnering with creators and how getting the right music is paramount.

British online retailer ASOS positions itself at the cutting edge of fashion and technology. It should come as no surprise, then, that the company has invested in TikTok this year, and ASOS brand creative director John Mooney kicked things off by speaking about the platform’s creative potential.

‘2020 has been the year of TikTok,’ said Mooney. ‘Things always move very quickly at ASOS and it’s important that we test and learn ideas using different formats. We wanted to use a wider range of platforms and TikTok is an exciting place to elevate the brand – it’s also a place where people can have fun with us.’ 

TikTok’s UK fashion brand partnerships manager, Cassandra Russell, followed up by speaking of the ‘unbelievable’ results that brands can achieve when the right ingredients come together on the platform. As a case in point, Russell pointed to ASOS achieving over 1.2b views over the six days of its #AySauceChallenge earlier this year (which was 700% over the platform’s benchmark). The campaign also saw half a million videos created by the 170,000 or so people that took part. ‘These were unparalleled numbers for a fashion brand in Europe,’ said Russell.

You have to make your ad feel like something that someone would find naturally for it to really drive engagement

John Mooney, ASOS

For brands to use TikTok effectively, it helps to forge close links with creators on the platform, agreed Mooney and Russell. One such creator is Abby Roberts who boasts 14.3m TikTok followers and was involved in the ASOS #AySauceChallenge. Abby said that her ASOS brief worked because the requirements were clear in terms of messaging without being creatively restrictive. ‘They [ASOS] were very receptive to any feedback and input I had, which is good because I like to incorporate the latest trends on the platform. This ensures the content performs the best that it can,’ said Roberts.

Brands should try to build their own audiences on TikTok, the same way that creators like Roberts have, said Mooney. ‘For us, making sure that content we make is native to the platform, rather than just rehashing something that already exists, is vital for audience connection. You have to make your ad feel like something that someone would find naturally for it to really drive engagement.’

Sound is important not just for discovery but in terms of inspiration to create content

Inam Mahmood, TikTok

Sound is an essential part of the TikTok user experience and the vast majority of TikTok videos contain some form of music, said Inam Mahmood, managing director, Global Business Solutions, UK at TikTok. ‘Sound is important not just for discovery but in terms of inspiration to create content. Brands that get the music right tend to get incredible results,’ he said. Mahmood went on to list the options available for brands such as TikTok’s royalty-free commercial music library or using TikTok’s in-house creative music team.

But what are the barriers to entry when it comes to using TikTok? Marketing manager at Propercorn Grace Chau said that her lack of a dedicated in-house TikTok team was preventing her business from embracing it. Russell replied that working with the platform’s top talent is a good place to start. ‘We see five times the level of engagement with advertising content when brands work with creators.’

In terms of TikTok tools available to brands, Russell said that businesses can take advantage of the platforms free-to-use ‘Creator Marketplace’, which identifies the best creators to work with. Brands can then brief creators through the platform using a dashboard a where you can monitor real-time results. TikTok also has its own creative team that brands can use, she added.

It is important to work with creators and get feedback on what is currently trending. This will help increase the performance of the videos – TikTok is so trend driven

Abby Roberts

Moderator James Womersley, a strategist at Contagious, then asked what brands need to consider when choosing a creator to work with. Roberts stressed the importance of selecting a relevant and on-brand creator for a campaign to come across as genuine. ‘Choosing creators that are going to make the content feel native to the platform is vital so that the audience doesn’t feel like they’re being advertised to.’

Roberts said when it comes to briefing creators, the more comprehensive the better. ‘It can be difficult to re-shoot content, so it is good to know timing of things and having an engaging sound that doesn’t sound overly branded. One of the biggest turn-offs is when the brand comes with a terrible sound,’ she said.

Roberts added that brands need to pay more attention to trends as they develop on the platform. ‘Brands will come to me with an idea for content and its clear that they don’t know the platform at all,’ she said. ‘It is important to work with creators and get feedback on what is currently trending. This will help increase the performance of the videos – TikTok is so trend driven’.

It is also a mistake to assume that only young people use TikTok, according to Mahmood, who said that the platform has doubled its audience size this year. Mahmood said that lockdown had inspired a diverse array of people to sign up, whether for entertainment or to learn something new. ‘We have a popular 87-year-old creator called Grandad Joe,’ he said. ‘Our platform is an ever-growing community of a highly engaged users of all ages who want to get inspired.’

In terms of the platform’s future, Cassandra Russell spoke of the ‘packed product roadmap’ for TikTok in the months ahead. She spoke of an increased focus on ecommerce with an emphasis on branded accounts​​​​​​​ with ‘shop windows’ as well as capitalising on the opportunities around livestreaming. ‘We will keep using the power, sway and audience of our creators to drive engagement with brands – this space is going to be massive for us,’ she said.


Inam Mahmood, managing director of business partnerships at TikTok

Cassandra Russell, fashion brand partnerships (EMEA) at TikTok

John Mooney, brand creative director at ASOS

Abby Roberts, TikTok creator @abbyrartistry

Simon Valcarcel, head of brand and consumer marcomms at O2

Pamela Brown, chief marketing officer at Vodafone Smart Tech

Nick Gilmer, marketing manager at BBC One and iPlayer

Laura Gray, senior brand manager at Mondelez International

Kate Probert, digital lead at Ben & Jerry's UK

Fabiola Pacciani, assistant brand manager at Ben & Jerry's UK

Natalia Ignatovich, senior marketing director content at PepsiCo

Grace Chau, marketing manager at Propercorn


James Womersley, senior strategist at Contagious