Flexing Your Brand and Creativity on TikTok with Evgeni Atanasov

More than just receiving likes and views, advertising on social media is about co-creating content with purpose and value.

In recent years, TikTok has become one of the largest and fastest-growing social media platforms. Among the social media giants like Facebook and Twitter, TikTok was first to reach 100 billion users.

But more than just being a fun app that allows users to share snippets of life and provide entertainment, TikTok has made themselves relevant for businesses and advertisers with their launch of TikTok For Business last year.

Joining us in a Power Lunch Hour to shed light on advertising on social media was Evgeni Atanasov, the Head of Brand Strategy (Singapore) at TikTok. Here are three practical tips you can immediately apply to your marketing strategy and advertising campaigns.

Make every second count

Evgani advises: “Every effective ad tells a good story and delivers joy.” However, with our common dislike for disruptive ads, coupled with our short attention span on social media, the challenge for advertisers and marketers is in creating a compelling ad that tells a story in a minute or even less. 

TikTok was well aware of this behavioural fact about people’s video consumption habits, which is why you’d see user-created content on TikTok to be 15 seconds long, Evgeni said. Where attention is scarce, every second counts.

But there are more things that TikTok did to push engagement and retention, and Evgeni recommends that we present as much information in the ad as early as possible—a storytelling technique used by advertisers called “front-loading”

Here are some ways Evgeni suggests to best front-load content on TikTok:

  • Capture and hold your audience’s attention when you begin your video with an original story—something the TikTok world has never seen before. Audiences are always seeking new experiences and never-seen-before content.
  • Another way to retain your viewer’s attention is to use popular songs that have a tempo of 120 beats per minute or higher. It has shown to increase the average view time of your videos.
  • Don’t let your content hide behind a marketing wall. Instead, dare to break the fourth wall. TikTok has found out that 33% of the top-performing videos engage and address their audiences directly.
  • Enable your viewers to comment on your content. While some brands are particular about controlling public comments, engagement actually increases with comments turned on because they want to read the comments and thoughts of other viewers. According to behavioural data from TikTok, viewers are almost 20% more likely to follow-up with a brand’s call to action when they make and see comments.
In a front-loaded story, it is crucial to capture and retain your audience’s attention as early as possible with captivating sounds or music, eye-catching visuals and important elements of the brand or product. Image: Evgeni Atanasov.

Be ‘Flawsome’

It was estimated that Generation Z, the primary demographic of TikTok users, will account for 40% of global consumers by 2020, and they would be the ones whose shopping habits can either save or break brick-and-mortar stores, experts say

When it comes to a Gen Zer’s decision to support a brand, they will first judge the brand’s purpose and ethical business practices, such as being sustainable.

On the note that the Gen Z have a rising influence over a brand’s perception, Evgeni highlighted that it is crucial for brands to stay true to their branding, even it means showing off the “flaws” and “vulnerabilities” of their product or service. Evgeni calls this embracing of a brand’s so-called weaknesses, being “flawsome”.

Take it from this TikTok ad with Cara Delevingne for Dior, whose name, like many other fashion brands, we’ve been mispronouncing all this time. The ad pokes fun at this fact the brand is honest about this “flaw” of theirs, showing a cheeky side people don't usually see. The ad has since garnered over 80,000 views and 1,500 comments from engaged viewers.

How do you pronounce “Dior Joaillerie”? Image: dior/TikTok.


At the end of the day, audiences want to see brands being honest, and they would have greater trust toward brands whose values align with their own. In the long run, brands who can fulfil this promise are able to build better relationships with their consumers.

Democratise creativity

It is not merely about getting likes and shares, as Evgeni emphasised, but more so about the audience joining and participating in shared experiences and purpose.

During the infancy of social media in the late 90s, the experience was one-dimensional with faceless internet chatrooms and forums. Soon, however, social media has evolved to become more interactive and personal, to the point where we’re now sharing both mundane and life changing moments on Facebook and Instagram without a second thought and a tap of a finger.

Now, it is evident by the number of content creators in the Tiktok community that the evolution of social media is well into its next phase: the age of participation, where collaborative content-making between brand and consumer is becoming the norm.

In Colgate’s “Smile Challenge” campaign in 2019, Colgate invited TikTok users to celebrate World Smile Day by encouraging users to smile in front of the camera for 30 seconds. The result? Not only did the campaign produce 1.6 million user-generated videos, TikTok contributors also felt that both Colgate and their consumers “co-own” the brand.

What such social media challenges mean for brands is that they can now directly engage with their consumers, and their consumers likewise, can engage with the brand when they are empowered to contribute to the brand’s values and message.


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