A Guide To TikTok Ads: From Setup to Reporting

A guide to tiktok ads for agencies

With a unique blend of catchy tunes, captivating visuals, and the ever-appealing viral potential, TikTok has captivated hearts and screens globally. As the TikTok social media juggernaut continues to roll onwards with 834.3 million users worldwide, they are aggressively trying to monetize this growth through its advertising offering.

To this end, TikTok has launched a ‘global agency team’ to build relationships with the agencies and advertising companies that control a majority of the world’s advertising dollars. On the other side of the coin, businesses that want to connect with TikTok’s user base of mostly younger customers are looking for partners and agencies to help them succeed.

We're about to embark on an exhilarating ride through the winding roads of TikTok advertising. Now, don't fret; this isn't one of those nightmare car rides with no GPS. It's time to grab the TikTok Ads Manager account by the reins and steer the client's marketing dreams toward reality.

Consider this guide as the road map to successfully navigate, deploy, and assess TikTok ad campaigns. It’s not just about placing an ad; it's about understanding the when, where, and how of creating TikTok ads that strike a chord with the audience.

In this guide, we’ll tackle how to get started with TikTok advertising, from setting up your ads to reporting efficiently to showcase your success metrics to your clients with a PPC reporting tool, including:

With this guide, digital marketing agencies will find a treasure trove of insights to help clients make their mark on the TikTok scene. Fasten your seat belts, because it's time to zoom into the world of TikTok advertising, where every scroll is a chance for a client's brand to be the shining star.

The State of TikTok

TikTok’s video ads are trending and continues to see steady growth, and higher engagement rates, compared to other social media platforms, are a particularly strong allure for businesses looking to establish an early-mover advantage on TikTok.

Number of Users on TikTok Growing Worldwide

eMarketer also recently released demographic stats for TikTok users in the US, showing that their highest concentration is within the 18 - 34 age demographic.

US TikTok Users by Age

High Engagement on TikTok Ads

And the high engagement rates among millennial and Gen Z users on TikTok also extend to TikTok Ads.

The company recently released some compelling metrics on the efficacy of the TikTok Ads offering. As per the report, ads on the platform generated higher early user engagement and attention, created stronger brand recall, and drove more positive brand sentiment compared to other tested platforms.

TikTok has also further expanded beyond these signals of ad measurement to offer sales conversion metrics and performance-based buys.

The above facts, along with the constant news cycles about TikTok, create an environment of opportunity for agencies that can position themselves to be experts in helping their clients succeed on this rapidly growing platform. 

Your marketing agency can easily jump into TikTok’s user-friendly advertising platform and create exciting ad content for your clients without needing much, if any, technical assistance. 

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Advertising Content that Works on TikTok

Being a relatively new social media platform, there is currently a lack of understanding among agencies and clients on the type of content that works best for TikTok.

The virality of our platform really depends on things like the hashtag, music and an active call to users to participate in something. Just using content across different platforms won't work.

— Lionel Sim, Director of Global Marketing, TikTok.

Don’t make Ads. Make TikToks.

TikTok keeps repeating the number one rule. And that's to entertain. Agencies that create native content for TikTok will be rewarded on this visual platform that leverages the content graph rather than the social graph. The businesses succeeding on TikTok create authentic content that closely aligns with the community they would like to connect to.

Shoot in 720p Plus.

While you don’t need a big production budget, you do need to ensure that your video quality is not grainy. This is a mainly visual platform, after all. According to TikTok, 83.2% of their top-performing content has a video resolution of 720p or higher.

Orientation Matters.

Another point to note is that the vertical orientation of your videos matters. A majority of TikTok videos are shot in vertical format. TikTok users aren’t expecting to have to rotate their screen to watch the next video on their For You Page. “Videos shot in vertical format see a 40.1% lift in impressions compared to videos using a square or horizontal aspect ratio,” says TikTok.

Fill up the Screen.

Your videos should take advantage of the immersive full-screen experience that the TikTok platform offers. More than 98% of top-performing videos take up the whole screen. The videos that use the full 9:16 aspect ratio perform much better than videos that fit poorly on the screen and show empty black space and screen edges.

Keep the Sound On.

TikTok says that 93% of their highest-performing video content contains some kind of audio track. So you could talk on camera, use a voiceover, or add an awesome music soundtrack.

Keep It Brief and Relevant.

TikTok’s own data points to the fact that 1 in 4 top-performing videos are between 21 and 34 seconds in duration. So use your storytelling skills to keep it short and sweet. Keep it brief enough to be interesting and relevant enough to connect with the target audience. Use different angles and transitions and these types of inclusions in TikTok videos result in a 40.6% lift in impressions.

Use Captions, Hashtags, and CTA Buttons.

Create punchy captions that reinforce the message in your video. Using brand and target audience-relevant hashtags in your content is also important to improving performance and engagement rates. TikTok says that the use of captions creates a 55.7% lift in impressions, and CTAs result in an 11.3% lift in impressions. Hashtag challenges are a type of ad that brands like McDonald’s have leveraged for great results.

Agency Tip: TikTok advises marketers to create videos that grab attention and earn trust. In 2023, TikTok reports that high entertainment ads are rated 25% higher for brand love and 15% higher for purchase intent vs. low entertainment ads. Viewers are weary of clickbait CTAs like "wait till the end," so aim to be more authentic, aka, trustworthy.

Make It Funny.

TikTok users are over endless to-do lists and feeling burnt out. They use the platform as an escape from reality, so what's trending tends to also be funny. The platform reports that 92% of users felt a positive emotion after seeing a TikTok video that ultimately resulted in an off-platform action. So jump on trends to bring humor into your content and inspire a joyful reaction.

Getting the Lay of the Land: TikTok Ads Fundamentals

Before diving deep, let's get familiar with some of the basics every TikTok advertiser should have on their radar. A well-rounded understanding of the TikTok user base and the golden keys to creating compelling ad content can go a long way in making your TikTok campaigns successful.

The TikTok Audience Demographic: Who's Watching?

When creating TikTok ads, knowing the audience forms the cornerstone of every successful campaign. TikTok is a vibrant universe, a bustling playground majorly dominated by Gen Z and millennials. But don't let that fool you! With its skyrocketing popularity, TikTok now has a diverse user demographic, with a rising number of older adults finding joy in scrolling through the endless, entertaining feed.

This diversity presents a pot of gold for TikTok advertisers, enabling them to target a broad spectrum of potential customers. Matching the right audience with the appropriate message for a campaign that ticks all the marketing goals is essential. 

Authenticity, trends, and creativity are the three magical ingredients to cook up a storm on TikTok.

TikTok is a platform that thrives on authenticity. Users gravitate toward content that's real, raw, and relatable. TikTok advertisers who embrace this and let their brand personality shine through their ads often find themselves in the good graces of TikTok users.

Next up, trends! TikTok is the birthplace of numerous viral trends, from catchy dance routines to creative challenges. Incorporating these trends in ad content often paves the way for better engagement.

Finally, creativity is king on TikTok. Unique, out-of-the-box ideas stand a better chance of cutting through the noise and captivating the audience. Remember, on TikTok, an ad can become content that users love and share.

Technical Specifications for TikTok Ads

Now that we have an idea of who's watching and what they like to see, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty: the TikTok ad specs. While creativity is queen in the land of TikTok, the king that rules the roost is quality. When you create TikTok ads, high-quality visuals and sound are non-negotiable for the TikTok community.

Each ad type comes with its own set of rules, but a few general guidelines apply across the board.

To start with, the accepted file formats include MP4, MOV, MPEG and AVI formats. The video length can range from 5 to 60 seconds, but the TikTok community has a soft spot for the 9-15 seconds sweet spot. When it comes to video dimensions, TikTok embraces full-screen videos with a recommended aspect ratio of 9:16 or 1:1 (although 16:9 is accepted for certain ad types, vertical videos typically perform better). 

As for the resolution, nothing short of 720p will do, and the file size must stay under the 500 MB limit. Sound is equally important in this dynamic landscape. Using original, high-quality sound or licensed music from TikTok's vast library can make the difference between an ad that fades into oblivion and one that takes center stage.

And last but not least, a catchy ad description with a maximum of 100 characters can be the cherry on top that gives users the extra nudge to engage with the ad.

Remember, while these specifications provide a framework, they are just a part of the puzzle. The heart and soul of a compelling TikTok ad lie in the story it tells, the emotions it evokes, and the connection it creates with the viewers. Happy filming!

Determining Campaign Objectives: Target Audience, Budget, and Schedule

Now, with a clear understanding of the TikTok landscape and the technicalities of creating ads, it's time to roll up those sleeves and start creating the blueprint for a new campaign (we’ll get into the details of setting up your first ad in a bit). While an ad might be the shiny, visible tip of the iceberg, what lies beneath the water level - the objective, target audience, budget, and schedule - forms the vast and vital part of the whole operation.

Choosing the Right Campaign Objective - Just like a ship needs a destination to set sail, a TikTok ad campaign needs an objective to get started. Whether the goal is to capture attention and boost brand awareness, get more video views, or drive traffic to a website, having a clear objective sets the tone for the entire campaign.

Defining the Target Audience - With the objective in place, the next step is to identify the potential customers who are going to make it happen. Thanks to TikTok's sophisticated targeting capabilities, advertisers can zoom in on their audience based on a range of criteria like demographics, interests, behaviors, or even existing content engagement.

Setting the Ad Budget - How much do TikTok ads cost? That's like asking how long a piece of string is. The beauty of TikTok for business is that it accommodates all sizes of budgets. Advertisers can control their spending by setting a campaign budget cap and defining the ad group budget. 

Establishing the Schedule - Deciding when and how long the ads should run forms the final piece of the campaign setup puzzle. Remember, timing can be just as crucial as the ad content itself in the quest to connect with TikTok users.

With these foundational pillars in place, the stage is set to bring the vision of a new TikTok ad campaign to life. It's time to dive in and start creating!

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5 Types of TikTok Ads

TikTok offers advertisers the ability to tap into these six types of TikTok Ads.

1. In-Feed TikTok Ads

Ad content duration: Up to 60 seconds of video.

TikTok recommends that you limit the duration to 9-15 seconds. These ads appear as users scroll through their ‘For You Page’ in TikTok. The in-feed ads blend in with TikTok’s native feed resulting in potentially high visibility and engagements. Users can comment, share, and interact with these videos, which also allows you to add a CTA button that leads them to a landing page.

2. Brand Takeover TikTok Ads

Ad content duration: 3-5 second videos or 3-second images.

As the name implies, these ads take over the user’s screen as soon as the app is launched. This full-screen, auto-play ads can include a CTA and links to landing pages on TikTok that drive the target audience deeper into your brand story. These full-screen ads can direct users to either a Hashtag Challenge or a landing page. TikTok ensures that only one Brand Takeover Ad is displayed to a user per day, which means that there is higher visibility. This increase in visibility comes at a premium price point.

3. Top View TikTok Ads

Ad content duration: 60 seconds of video.

Similar to Brand Takeover ads, TikTok's Top View ads auto-play after users sign in. The difference is that they occupy the screen with a delay of about 3 seconds after the sign-in and auto-play a 60-second long video.

4. Branded Hashtag Challenge TikTok Ads

Ad content duration: Varies.

With a median engagement rate of 17.5% touted by TikTok, these sponsored hashtag challenges appear at the top of TikTok’s Discover Page. Users who click on the hashtags are led to landing pages on TikTok and to a collection of other TikTok videos that are participating in the hashtag challenge.

e.l.f. TikTok challenge gif

Source: e.l.f. Cosmetics challenge

These kinds of ads encourage user-generated content that can result in exponential and viral brand awareness, as with the e.l.f Cosmetics challenge above that resulted in nearly 5 million user-generated videos and 7 billion views.

5. Branded Effects TikTok Ads

Ad content duration: Varies.

Add custom brand filters and special effects to your ad content to potentially garner higher engagement. Brands often combine these ad formats with other TikTok ads to promote themselves. These ads containing shareable stickers, filters, and special effects encourage the creation of user-generated content around these branded effects.

6. TikTok Spark Ads

No restrictions on Video Ratio/Video Resolution/File Type/Video Duration/Bitrate/File Size

Spark Ads provide an ingenious way for brands to tap into the native and user-generated content that TikTok thrives on, adding a layer of authenticity and user endorsement that can be a game-changer for campaigns.

In a nutshell, a Spark Ads TikTok campaign allows advertisers to promote existing organic posts. It could be a post created by the brand or a user's post that mentions the brand (with the user's permission, of course). This strategy not only blends the ad seamlessly into the user feed, making it less intrusive, but it also leverages the power of user approval and the immense creative talent of the TikTok community.

TikTok Spark Ads Example

Spark Ads come with interactive elements such as website clicks or app downloads, offering more ways to connect with the audience. They can appear in multiple placements like the For You feed and post-detail page, increasing the ad's visibility. And tagging, emojis, and hashtags are all allowed in Spark Ads' captions.

This format presents a unique opportunity for brands to become part of the conversation, rather than just observers or initiators.

Setting Up Your First TikTok Ad Campaign

Your agency can get started with TikTok ads via the TikTok for Business sign-up page. You’ll need to provide information to set up your TikTok Ads Manager account as a brand or individual. Once your brand is approved, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Create a Campaign

Start under the “Campaigns” tab and click on the “Create” button.

Step 2: Choose the Right Objective

Think about your business goals and align your advertising objectives on TikTok with those specific goals.

The objectives can be categorized into:

  • Awareness: This objective will include creating more visibility for the brand you are promoting.

  • Consideration: You select this objective to drive traffic to your client’s website, content, or app installs.

  • Conversion: Drive sales, sign-ups, and similar conversion activities by selecting this objective.

TikTok Ads for Agencies

Source: TikTok

Step 3: Name Your Campaign and Define the Budget

Once you name your campaign you will be allowed to create a budget for it. Set a lifetime budget to quickly reach as much of your target audience as possible. Set a daily budget to gradually expand your reach among your target audience. Your campaigns will stop running when they reach the set budget amount.

The three budget choices available to you are:

  • Daily Budget — Your ad delivery is limited by the amount you want to spend each day, allowing your campaign to reach your target audience at an even pace.

  • Lifetime Budget — You set the total amount you're willing to spend on all the ads in your campaign. Your budget will be distributed throughout the entire provided time range. However, the spend will not be evenly spread through each day like the daily budget campaigns. 

  • No Limit — This budget lets TikTok know that you're willing to spend as much as it takes at the campaign level. You will still be able to set spending limits at the ad group level.

Step 4: Create a TikTok Ad Group

The next step is to create an ad group for your campaign, which is where you can define the following criteria:

  • Placement: Placement refers to where your ads will be shown inside the app and on TikTok's partner apps. You can either select automatic placement, which will include all TikTok partner apps, or you can choose the “Select Placement” method and manually choose where your ads appear.

  • Creative type: In terms of creative type, you have the option to turn on “Automated Creative Optimization”, which involves TikTok’s system automatically generating creative assets for you such as images, videos, and ad texts. 

  • Targeting: Targeting on TikTok offers various options including audience demographics, targeting by device, interest, and operating systems, amongst others. Similar to other ad platforms, you can also choose to include or exclude custom audiences or lookalike audiences in your targeting.

  • Budget & schedule: Next up, you can choose the timing and budget for your ad campaign. This can include setting a daily budget or lifetime budget, which can be set to start or end at certain times of the day or week. 

  • Bidding & Optimization: Finally, you can select your bidding and optimization options for the ad group. The three types of optimization goals include conversions, clicks, and reach. In terms of bidding, just like other platforms you can set a manual bid for each optimization type or let TikTok manage your bids automatically. 

How to create a TikTok ad

Source: TikTok

Step 5: Create an Ad

The final step to launch a campaign is to create an ad for your ad group. In this section, you can choose to either upload your pawn ad creative or design ads right inside of TikTok Ads Manager. The two ad forms that are supported include images and video. After setting up your ad creative, choosing a thumbnail, and adding your CTAs, you also have the option to add tracking link URLs or relevant pixels to your ads to track performance data.

That’s it, you’re now ready to submit your ad for approval and start tracking the results of your campaign.

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TikTok Ads Marketing Reports with AgencyAnalytics

Now that you’ve launched your ad on TikTok, the next crucial step is to measure your performance of each campaign, ad group, and ad creative in order to optimize results and increase your client’s ROAS.

With our recent TikTok Ads integration, you can now easily automate the process of collecting, visualizing, and sharing TikTpk ad performance data with clients. To do so, all you need to do is navigate to the integrations page of your dashboard and follow the steps to connect your ad account.

AA Social Integrations TikTok Ads

After integrating your TikTok account, you’ll then find our prebuilt dashboard that includes the following four main sections:

  • Campaigns

  • Ad Groups

  • Ads

  • Demographics

tiktok ads report

Automate your clients' TikTok Ads reporting in minutes. Try it free for 14 days!

A Handy PPC Reporting Tool for Performance Metrics

Within the first three tabs, the PPC reporting tool provides all your performance metrics for the campaign, ad group, or ad in question, including:

TikTok Ads dashboard

Additionally, choose to include more PPC data in your TikTok ads dashboard by clicking the “Metrics” button in the top right-hand corner. Specifically, you’ll find the following metrics:

  • Average Video Play

  • Comments

  • Conversion Rate

  • Cost per Conversion

  • Cost per Result

  • Follows

  • Full Views

  • Likes

  • Profile Visits

Finally, in the Demographics section, you’ll find a detailed breakdown of which market segments are interacting with your TikTok Ads. This dashboard can also be further broken down into:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Country

  • Device

TikTok Ads demographics

Alternatively, for cross-channel reporting, choose to add your TikTok Ads metrics to a white-labeled social media dashboard or dedicated PPC report that includes data from any of our 60+ integrations like Google ads.

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PPC Reporting Tools Highlight TikTok Ads Success for Agencies

If a client’s target audience is in the millennial or Gen Z age group, TikTok Ads are definitely worth experimenting with. As a newer platform, it’s important to reiterate that the content you create for TikTok should be specifically designed for the platform as it’s quite different from other platforms like Facebook ads and Instagram.

By “creating TikToks, not ads”, you’ll put yourself in a position to stand out from other companies that aren’t embracing this platform-native approach to advertising.

After you get your first TikTok Ads up and running, the next step is to make sure you’re accurately tracking your results and creating custom reports for clients. Automate the process of collecting ad performance data to visualize all your clients' real-time marketing data under one roof with our ikTok Ads integration.

Combine your Tiktok Ads metrics with other PPC metrics using a PPC report template. That way, your agency has everything it needs to track campaign performance across multiple channels and highlight your ROI in a scalable way.

If you’re ready to start automating your TikTok Ads reporting, get started with a free trial here.

Peter Foy Headshot

Written by

Peter Foy

Peter Foy is a content marketer with a focus on SaaS companies. Based in Toronto, when he’s not writing he’s usually studying data science and machine learning.

Read more posts by Peter Foy ›

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