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TikTok and Snapchat for Brands: Why (and Why Not) to Advertise

22 Nov 2019 Cara Tucker

in Digital, Social Media, Strategy

Of the social platforms in vogue with younger audiences, TikTok has, of late, garnered the most headlines. From surpassing 1.5B downloads to a U.S. National Security Review, marketers and teens alike have been abuzz about the video app set to music. But what does all of this mean for brands, and why might Snapchat be a smarter alternative for advertisers? At Stella Rising, I direct the social efforts for an array of fabulous beauty brands, many of which are seeking to connect with the younger demographics these platforms reach. Accordingly, below I offer a point of view that covers the advantages and disadvantages of both Snapchat and TikTok, with advice on how best to utilize the networks.

The New Wild West

TikTok is exciting because brands can make a big splash immediately, with or without paid support. Hashtag Challenges, one of the environment’s most popular topics, can rake in thousands of UGC entries without paid support, and a decent chance to “go viral” still exists. e.l.f. Cosmetics recently had great success with a catchy TikTok campaign that captured user attention and elevated the brand; in just over a week, the campaign garnered 1.6B views. For brands with a Gen Z target and the means to create standout content, the platform offers a real chance to engage and cut through the clutter.

Yet, a word of caution around TikTok’s ad products for the following reasons: brand safety and the algorithms and ad management options available. Right now, the network is Content Roulette. While the audience can be ordered to some degree, there are no concrete controls in place for what branded content appears next to. Neither are there controls for what happens to content once it’s published in the network. Furthermore, when looking to place most ads, there is little structure, restricted reporting, and few campaign controls. The platform recently debuted a self-serve ad option, but it is limited to standard short video clips with a small range of buying types and objectives.

So, unless a brand values edginess over control (and some brands do), I recommend using TikTok as an organic space with paid potential, to be leveraged as a complement to core strategy, and part of an ongoing innovation budget to experiment, test, and learn.

A Safer Alternative?

When looking to build out their API, Snapchat did the exact opposite of what TikTok is doing now. After extensive conversations with agency coders, Snapchat built out their own API to look much like Facebook Business Manager, which marketers were accustomed to. The Snapchat team also anticipated that brands would be nervous about brand safety on a platform known for intimate sharing and was aware that users could rebel against ads altogether if executed inelegantly. From the beginning, content was rigorously vetted and ad options strictly limited. Options like whitelisting and blacklisting, as well as integrations with partners like DoubleVerify, emerged quickly. Costs were still high, and the process was still bumpy, but Snapchat chose to start with stronger guardrails.

Opportunities and Implications for Beauty

Not as many people are on Snapchat: 80.2M in the U.S. as compared to Instagram (93.7M) and Facebook (171.5M). While at first blush that may seem like a disadvantage, it can actually lead to strong efficiencies. Snapchat has built their advertising options to be very interactive; catalog integrations are now available, as are a variety of swipe-up-to-do-more attachments and quick, standard Snap ads. These deeper experiences cater well to higher price point beauty items, like prestige makeup or skincare, where more persuasion and trust are required prior to conversion. Furthermore, Snapchat perfectly suits beauty brands, what with so much attention paid to faces and selfies. Add to this Snapchat’s investments in AR, lenses, and filters, and brands can get engaging, fun content that is much more than a typical social media ad. Snapchat might not be the Wild West anymore, but it is certainly still full of opportunity for brands hoping to diversify their media mix.

What to Keep in Mind, Regardless of Platform

Something that TikTok and Snapchat share is the transparency required on the part of brands. Rather than the glossy, perfected brand images that have defined Instagram and Facebook, on TikTok and Snapchat brands will need to match their content to the attitude of the platform. Whether fun, surprising, or amusing, brands need to keep their intentions clear, while remembering that their creative and messaging should fit within these networks, and not the other way around.


At Stella Rising, I advise brands every day on navigating the ever-changing world of social media. If you are looking to strengthen your brand’s social media strategy, reach out to us.


Additional Sources: eMarketer 2019

Digital Social Media Strategy