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Paid Media 13 min read

The Ultimate Guide to TikTok Ads

Carolyn Noel photo

Written by Carolyn Noel

Communications Coordinator @ Galactic Fed

Dallin Porter photo

Expert reviewed by Dallin Porter

Marketing Director @ Galactic Fed

Published 17 Aug 2022

It’s safe to say that TikTok has taken the world by storm. 

With millions of people stuck inside during COVID-19, many turned to their phones for entertainment and stress relief. Although TikTok was launched in 2016, it saw unparalleled success due to the pandemic and had over 850 million downloads in 2020 alone

However, if you’re over the age of 30 you may still not quite understand what TikTok is and why there’s so much hype (or you may just associate TikTok with silly dances and challenges that are definitely not meant for you). 

But with such astronomical growth and continued success, TikTok is one of the best social media platforms for brands to advertise on. 67% of TikTok users have said that they’ve been inspired to shop on the app even when they weren’t looking to do so. 

Today we’ll deep dive into the world of TikTok and TikTok advertisements so that you can easily and efficiently start using the app and get your business booming. 

History of TikTok 

To understand the origin of TikTok, you first need to know about was the original short-form video-sharing app with over 100 million users. 

The app was founded by Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang in 2014 and allowed users to lip-sync music and funny dialogue, create dance videos, and make entertaining content all within 15 seconds or less. 

TikTok was created by a Chinese tech company called ByteDance and was first released in 2016 under the name Douyin. It was marketed as a social networking service similar to Facebook and Instagram. In late 2017, ByteDance bought and took over and in 2018, ByteDance closed down and put most of its features into Douyin. 

By August 2018, ByteDance released the global version of Douyin– TikTok. All content and accounts that were on were automatically transferred to TikTok. 

Users on TikTok are able to create 15-second to 10-minute videos. There are different sounds, songs, special effects, and filters available to use and there are a variety of videos consisting of dances, challenges, makeup tutorials, clothing hauls, “day in my life” vlogs, and more posted each day. 

Since its global launch, TikTok has grown at an exponential rate. In 2021, TikTok generated 4.6 billion dollars, a 142% increase from 2020. ​​It also reached one billion users in the third quarter of 2021 and is expected to reach 1.8 billion by the end of the year. 

TikTok is now the sixth most used social media platform in the world

Ranking of social media platforms

Source: Hootsuite 

Which Businesses Should Use TikTok Ads? 

Before you jump into advertising on TikTok, it’s important to know your audience. Who are you selling your products or services to? What are some of their characteristics? Where do they live? The process of discovering and assigning these attributes is called creating a buyer persona

It’s not uncommon to have multiple buyer personas. Identifying these personas can help businesses better understand their customers and therefore reach and serve them better. 

60% of TikTok users are between the ages of 16 to 24. Nearly a quarter of that percentage are women. TikTok’s largest audience is in the United States at 120,768,500 people, but it also has a large reach in the Middle East and Asia. If your buyer personas fit any of these characteristics, TikTok advertising may be right for you. 

TikTok advertising is also ideal for Business-to-Consumer brands that want to reach their target audience directly through engaging, creative content. Business-to-Business brands may find TikTok challenging if they sell difficult services to show visually. Their intended audience may also be more likely to visit their website directly from a Google search or use other social media platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook. 

Types of TikTok Ads

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to TikTok ads. TikTok has a variety of ad formats that can cater to different brands and different goals. In order to get started with creating effective TikTok ads, it’s important to understand what options are available. 

  1. In-Feed Ads 

These are the ads that appear among the news feed, also known as the For You Page (FYP), of TikTok users. These are self-service ads that you can create through the TikTok Ad Manager. 

  1. Brand Takeover Ads 

These ads allow your brand to “dominate” the screen with a full-screen ad that immediately appears when a user opens the app. The ad remains full-screen for a few seconds before turning into an in-feed video ad that users can engage with or swipe away from. 

  1. Spark Ads

TikTok rolled out Spark Ads in 2021. These ads are a way for brands to sponsor popular organic content that relates to their products or services. When a user sees a Spark Ad, it will feel like an organic video on their FYP before it indicates that it is an ad. 

TikTok Spark ads

Source: TikTok 

Certain ad formats on TikTok are only available to managed brands. Managed brands are those that work with a TikTok sales representative. Your brand can contact TikTok to see if you are a good fit for having a sales rep. 

  1. TopView Ads 

TopView Ads are one format available to this group. These ads are 5 to 60 seconds long and appear as a full-screen takeover when users open the TikTok app. 

TikTok Topview ads

Source: TikTok 

  1. Branded Hashtag Challenge

This ad format is another available option for managed brands. These are three to six-day ad campaigns that encourage engagement through user-generated content. Users create videos and use the brand’s hashtag to enter the challenge. Videos with the hashtag then appear on the hashtag challenge page. A lot of engagement = A lot of impressions and clicks to the brand’s website.  

5. Branded Effects 

Managed brands are also able to create ads with Branded Effects. These are branded stickers, filters and special effects that TikTok users can put in their videos to give your brand recognition. 

Colgate branded effects

Source: AdEspresso 

  1. Sponsored Influencer Content 

Taking advantage of the massive amount of TikTok stars and influencers is another great way to spread the word about your brand. For this type of advertisement, you will get your message across through sponsored content from a popular and influential TikTok user. Their word will get their fans to interact with your website and products. 

TikTok sponsored contents

Source: TRIBE 

Setting up TikTok Ads

To create a new TikTok ad you will need to have a TikTok Ads Manager account. You can also boost existing TikTok content by using TikTok Promote (this is similiar to how you can boost a post on Facebook and Instagram). 

When you begin creating a new ad you will: 

  1. Choose an objective 

TikTok has seven ad objectives grouped into three categories. These are: 


  • Reach


  • Traffic
  • App Installs
  • Video Views
  • Lead Generation


  • Conversions 
  • Catalog Sales 

TikTok ads specification

Source: TikTok 

  1. Name your campaign and set a budget

Your campaign name can be up to 512 characters. You can choose to set No Limit on your campaign budget or you can choose to set a Daily or Lifetime budget. 

For the Conversions and App Installs, campaign budget optimization is also available. 

  1. Name your ad group and select placements

Your campaign can include one ad group all the way up to 999 ad groups. Each ad group name can also be 512 characters. This is when you will also have the option to select the placement of your ad. Different placements are available for each ad group and these placements vary by location. They are: 

  • TikTok Placement (In Feed) 
  • News Feed App Placement (BuzzVideo, TopBuzz, NewsRepublic, Babe) 
  • Pangle Placement (TikTok Network Audience) 
  • Automatic Placement (TikTok automatically optimizes placement of ads) 
  1. Choose your target audience 

TikTok allows you to target your ads based on certain specifications. These include: 

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Language
  • Interests
  • Behaviors
  • Device details

TikTok Ads Manager dashboard

Source: TikTok 

6. Set your ad group budget and schedule

This is where you will set the budget for your ad group and schedule when it will run. You can choose a Daily or Lifetime budget for the ad group and pick start and end times. You are also able to choose to run your ad at specific times throughout the day. 

7. Set your bidding strategy and optimization

Next, you will choose your optimization goal: conversion, clicks, or reach. Your campaign objective may automatically determine this. You will then choose your bidding strategy: bid cap, cost cap, or lowest cost

8. Choose your delivery type

Your last step will be to choose your delivery type: standard or accelerated. Standard will divide your budget evenly over your scheduled campaign dates and accelerated will spend your budget as fast as possible. 

Your ad will go through a review process before going live on TikTok. 

9. Continue to monitor and measure your success 

Your work isn’t done once the ad campaign begins. In fact, it’s only just begun. You will want to pay attention to how well your ad is performing and if it is reaching your target audience in the same way that you would for other paid media platforms. 

TikTok provides analytics that can show you how your campaign is performing in terms of impressions, conversions, clicks, and more. 

Be prepared to make changes to your campaigns in order to get the most bang for your buck. It’s important to constantly test and compare different ad creatives, ad placements, and target audiences to see what will work best for your brand. 

TikTok Ad Specs 

In order to create the most successful TikTok ads, there are certain guidelines you must follow. Keep these in mind when putting together your content: 

  • TikTok’s suggested time range for ads is between 9 to 15 seconds 
  • The aspect ratio is 9:16 or 1:1 with sidebars
  • The recommended dimensions are 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • The video should be less than 500 MB
  • The file will need to be .mp4, mov., mpeg, .3gp, or .avi 

Additional information and clarification can be seen on TikTok’s official list of ad specs. 

TikTok Ad Suggestions 

Now that you know exactly how to create a TikTok ad, it’s important to keep some things in mind when beginning to create your content. As discussed, a large majority of TikTok users are Gen-Z. And what does Gen-Z value? Authenticity

TikTok is not the place to make outrageous claims or overexaggerate. The audience will see right through you faster than you can imagine. 

We highly recommend making TikTok content and ads that highlight your company’s values and stay true to your brand beliefs

It’s also important to be direct and stay on top of trending sounds, hashtags, and social media movements and incorporate those into your content. Consider partnering with popular, trusted influencers and try to choose the best times to run your ads. 

For example, eBay ran a successful “Sneaker Showdown” campaign in alignment with the NCAA basketball tournament. With the buzz around this trending event, the campaign performed even better than it may have any other month. Always stay on top of these topics or events you can use to your benefit. 

And, hey, if it all seems like too much for you to manage on your own, we understand and are here to help. At Galactic Fed, our TikTok Ad services include: 

  • Ad Creatives 
  • Ad Copywriting
  • Tracking and Analytics Implementation
  • Reporting & Attribution

We’ve seen great success with TikTok ads so far, as showcased in our recent work with the beauty app Supergreat

So what are you waiting for? Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our experts today! 

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Carolyn Noel photo

Carolyn Noel

Communications Coordinator @ Galactic Fed