A detailed guide to vetting and hiring an e-commerce PPC agency: A detailed guide to TikTok ads for ecommerce businesses

A detailed guide to TikTok ads for ecommerce businesses


Did you know TikTok has more than 1 billion monthly users around the globe? It’s not just teens and college students on the app anymore. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are also gravitating to the app more and more.

As the old adage says, where attention goes, money flows. For DTC and ecommerce businesses, if you are not advertising on TikTok, then you’re likely leaving money on the table.

In this post, we’ll take a deep dive into TikTok ads for eCommerce, including what makes an effective TikTok ad, as well as sharing ad examples.

1. What are the different types of TikTok ads? 

Currently, there are 5 primary types of paid ads you can utilize through TikTok, including: 

  1. In-Feed ads
  2. TopView ads
  3. Brand Takeover ads
  4. Branded Hashtag Challenge ads
  5. Branded Effects ads

No matter what type of ad you decide to run, the first step is to create a TikTok Ads Manager account by signing up for TikTok for business. The TikTok ad creation structure includes campaigns, ad groups, and individual ads.

If you’re familiar with Google Ads or Facebook Business Manager, then you’ll probably feel right at home with TikTok’s advertising structure.

1. In-Feed ads

When you think of a traditional TikTok ad, In-Feed ads are probably what come to mind. These appear in the user’s feed as they browse through TikTok. While you can make these ads up to 60 seconds long, a general rule of thumb among advertisers is that you shouldn’t make In-Feed ads go longer than 15 seconds. With In-Feed ads, users can interact by sharing, liking, or tapping on your CTA link.

In-Feed tends to be the most affordable TikTok advertising option. Paid In-Feed ads are ideal for brands that want to maximize the direct response rate of their ads. For example, purchases, impressions, views, interactions, click-throughs, or app downloads.

Results are more measurable for In-Feed ads than other types of ads. As long as you have an engaging concept, In-Feed ads are a good fit. They’re ideal for brands looking to get started, those on a stricter budget, or those looking to enhance campaigns with a combination of ad types.

2. TopView ads

TopView ads are great for grabbing your audience’s attention shortly after they open the app. These ads are meant to be “video first” and run for 60 seconds. They’re auto-played in a full-screen format with accompanying audio. This means you can create an immersive experience for your viewers without competing against other brands or content creators. Call-to-action buttons can be included with the ads.

Unlike a Brand Takeover ad, TopView ads appear at the top as the first In-Feed post after 3 seconds of being in the app. The ad will appear at the top of the user’s “For You” page, which is often considered to be TikTok’s prime real estate spot.

These ads are good for guaranteed reach with high impressions. Since users will see them soon after opening the app, you can rely on this type of ad to work well for brand awareness objectives. These are a good fit for brands new to TikTok and looking to grow their following or awareness.

3. Brand Takeover ads

Brand Takeover ads are full-page ads that do exactly what they say in the name. They take over the viewer’s entire screen. These ads can be either dynamic or static. Videos can only be up to 5 seconds long.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that users can only see one Brand Takeover ad per day. This means the ad can be fairly effective with less competition. However, this also drives up the price of running this type of ad.

This ad format is particularly helpful to direct users toward a branded TikTok challenge (We’ll cover more on that later in this guide) or landing page. It’s a good ad to run if you have a significant following already and a large budget to backup the ad spend. This type of ad isn’t the best fit for less established brands on TikTok or those with limited marketing budgets.

4. Branded Hashtag Challenge ads

A Branded Hashtag Challenge is the perfect way to generate engagement with your brand. Instead of just sharing content with your audience, you invite anyone on TikTok to participate. With this type of ad, you ask users to take a video of themselves and post it with your defined hashtag. For example, sharing a dance, duet, or even videos of your product in use.

Through this type of ad, you can help spark trends and cultural movements. It’s perfect for generating brand awareness and top-of-funnel engagement. Any brand with a fresh idea and creative challenge to share can leverage the powerful opportunity this type of ad presents. If you have the budget for it, seeding this branded challenge with content from influencers can help your campaign gain even greater traction.

5. Branded Effects ads

Branded Effects are another ad type that can be customized to your business. Generate engagement with games, filters, stickers, and special effects specific to your brand. Branded Effects allow you to build your brand with interactive and creative elements. Like the Branded Hashtag Challenge, this type of ad encourages users to take elements of your ad and create something new with it.

Any eCommerce or DTC brand with a bit of creativity can leverage a Branded Effects ad. The ad can stand alone, or you can utilize Branded Effects alongside a Branded Hashtag Challenge. Branded Effects can be applied to many types of content and ad formats. Use it to enhance your existing ad campaigns or on its own to generate brand awareness with the TikTok community.

2. What makes a great TikTok ad? 

The best TikTok ads for eCommerce and DTC brands are the ones that encourage engagement and hit KPIs. Different brands should utilize different creative styles, but there are certain criteria to stick with for any TikTok campaign.

Here are 6 key elements that make up a great TikTok ad. Be sure to include these if you want to create an impactful and engaging video ad through the platform.

1. Use a vertical video format

Don’t shoot your videos horizontally unless you want to frustrate your audience. Your video assets need to fit the ad specs recommended by TikTok, or they risk being rejected. If they do happen to make it through TikTok regulations, a poorly shot and formatted video risks looking skewed or cut off on the sides.

This means it won’t have much of an impact on your audience, and you’ll be throwing your advertising dollars away. There are plenty of ways to get creative with your advertising. Video formatting and ad specs are not the place to stray from the platform’s recommendations. Stick to the rules for the type of ad you’re posting if you want to enjoy a successful campaign.

2. Go with a striking visual

It’s no secret that TikTok is a visual platform. Despite that being obvious, too many advertisers try to draw out their introductions or save the most impactful visuals for the middle or end of their videos.

You have little time to spare when people are scrolling through videos on the app. Your video needs to make an impact immediately to entice the viewer to keep watching and take action. Hook your audience with an attention-grabbing element right out of the gate, so they want to stay for more.

3. Keep it short

You don’t want all of your hard work to go to waste or a key message to be cut from the video. Keep your videos under 15 seconds long to prevent the platform from trimming your ad content.

If you haven’t completely grabbed their attention within the first few seconds, they’re likely to scroll right past your ad. If your video seems too long, think of ways you can reduce the playtime, whether that’s speeding something up or cutting something out. Short, snappy videos are best for this platform.

4. Center key elements

Be mindful of how your video might appear on someone’s smartphone and understand that the outer margins could be difficult to see. The platform is known to obscure the edges of videos. Combat this challenge by keeping important pieces of your video, such as your CTA, logo, or product shots, in the center of the frame.

5. Create an enticing CTA

Your call to action (CTA) needs to be compelling, easy to follow, and truly actionable. For instance, don’t say “visit our website,” if you don’t include a link to your website. Use a native button to direct users to perform an action and make the CTA relevant to the video content.

While the highest-performing CTAs are generally things they can do on TikTok (like follow your account or add a comment), if you do direct them out-of-the app, make sure your website is optimized for anyone on a smartphone.

6. Utilize captions and music

Viewers may not watch your entire video, but they’re likely to read the description in the caption and follow the link if they see something they like right away. For example, as an eCommerce brand, you might be showing a full clothing line collection, but the user is interested in the first shirt they see. Utilize the caption as a way to get them to the next step and describe what your video is about.

Likewise, you’ll want to take advantage of audio elements. In one study, 88% of TikTok users claimed that sound is essential to their experience on the platform. In addition to audience preference, TikTok requires ads to have audio settings on. Be sure to include background music clips or tracks of your ad to make your video more engaging.

Pro Tip: Want to drive more engagement? Use trending audio sounds in your ads. 

8 examples of excellent TikTok ad campaigns (and why they work) 

While having a big-name celebrity or social media influencer involved in your ad can help for bigger brands, you can still make quite a splash with a shoestring budget on TikTok.

Here are a handful of ad examples from both retail and CPG behemoths, as well as smaller ecommerce brands.

1. JIF

@ludacrisdtp #ad Put Jif in your grill and duet me for real.  #JifRapChallenge @jif ♬ #JifRapChallenge – Ludacris

JIF peanut butter’s largest TikTok campaign recently went viral with the help of rapper Ludacris. The campaign featured In-Feed ads with a Hashtag Challenge encouraging users to duet with the rapper with a spoonful of peanut butter in their mouth.

The campaign sparked massive engagement and went viral with #JifRapChallenge generating over 7.4 billion views.

The creative direction of this ad gave users a fun, unique way to engage with a well-loved, Millennial rapper. Performing through music is a natural fit for the platform and leveraging a celebrity helped the campaign gain quick appeal with the TikTok community.

2. Dr. Pepper

@drpepper Doing the #DeserveADrPepperDuet #Contest ♬ The One You Deserve – Lil’ Sweet

Another branded hashtag challenge that went viral was from Dr. Pepper, which encouraged users to duet Lil’ Sweet in a 42-second video using #DeserveADrPepperDuet. Anyone who entered also got a chance to win a contest. This challenge has more than 1.4 billion views.

The duet format, in particular, works well since it has built-in virality and allows users to put their spin on the video with a prize incentive.

3. Cartier

@CartierLily Collins & Panthère de Cartier♬ Promoted Music – Cartier

Luxury watchmaker and jeweler brand Cartier recently announced a new handbag line on TikTok with the help of model and actress Lily Collins, starring in the video.

Cartier took a page from successful luxury brand marketing and applied it to the TikTok video format. The scroll-stopping video uses striking visuals to set a tone and establish the prestige of the product.

Most notably, the ad says nothing about the line, Panthère de Cartier. It doesn’t use any copy on the video other than “Cartier presents,” and the promoted music doesn’t use voiceover to explain the new line. However, it’s still a stunning ad that grabs the audience’s attention.

4. Uproot Clean

@uprootclean Carpet cleaning ASMR 😍😍 #carpetasmr #carpetcleaning #uprootclean #asmr ♬ original sound – Uproot Clean

Uproot Clean sells a pet hair and lint remover handheld tool. They don’t have an extensive product line, but their in-feed ads do an excellent job of showcasing how the product works. At the time of this article, this ad has nearly 30k likes and over 1,400 comments.

This user-generated content ad worked because it showed the product in a real-life setting, and the creators understood how to leverage an existing trend (i.e. ASMR) to help the content gain traction on TikTok. Leaning on the ASMR trend and utilizing ASMR-related hashtags helped with making the most of their daily budget and increasing their average engagement rate too.

Not to mention, being a product with a lower price point helps with conversions when the product is demonstrated to be so effective.

5. Michael’s 

@michaelscraftstore #familycraft idea! Paint a window mural using washable paint markers 🎨 @handsonfamily #makeitwithmichaels #kidscraftideas #familyfun #craftymoms ♬ original sound – Michaels Stores

Michael’s partnered with a content creator to come up with this engaging ad. The ad features a family using washable paint markers from the craft store to paint a colorful window mural.

The best TikTok ads get the audience to participate. With short and engaging copy, this one immediately hooked the audience with a bright visual then showed them how to create the artwork themselves using the branded hashtags like #makeitwithmichaels as well as other relevant hashtags like #craftymoms and #familyfun. The family craft idea helps give viewers inspiration for using a product from the store. It also helps reaffirm the company as a family-oriented brand.

6. Thuma

@thuma.coThe strong silent type.♬ Promoted Music – thuma.co

Thuma is an eCommerce brand that sells bedroom accessories and bed frames. The company has a well-defined, modern aesthetic that’s consistent with its TikTok account. This ad showcases a particular bed frame from their site and is the perfect example of how well a simple concept and copy can work with an intriguing visual. The ad grabs the viewer’s attention by showing the assembly of the product in a stop-motion style without any people in the frame. This demonstrates how easy the product is to put together.

Additionally, the copy in the video asset reads, “Staycation starts now.” Together, the video and copy tell the story of how easily you can put your bed frame together to enjoy relaxing in your room.

7. Crocs

Crocs encouraged users to show off their creativity by customizing and enhancing the company’s footwear. The positive campaign embraced a “Come As You Are” mentality and resulted in 3 billion views for the hashtag #ThousandDollarCrocs.

The campaign paired the creativity of TikTok users with the flair and individuality the brand is known for. In this case, the brand was offering $1,000 to get users to share something that they were already showing off in real life with the brand’s product.

8. American Eagle

@chaseko Spending my morning like a main character @American Eagle  #aememberalways #aepartner ♬ mxmtoon – mona lisa

Clothing retailer American Eagle utilized the Branded Hashtag #AEMembersAlways to encourage their customers to share a mini-movie of their spring adventures. The trending Branded Hashtag has more than 487M views at the time of this article. The hashtag has been paired with TopView and In-Feed ads to create more engagement.

This campaign helps instill brand loyalty and inclusivity. It encourages users to get creative with their videos and be the star of the show. Other than the seasonal nod to spring, it doesn’t give any tight restrictions on the type of content, so the audience can be creative as they want.

How Credo can help you find the right TikTok ad agency for your ecommerce business 

TikTok advertising isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You need to be prepared to test different ad formats and combinations.

If TikTok is a new platform for you or your team doesn’t have the time to devote to learning and managing TikTok ad campaigns, leveraging a general social media advertising or a niche ecommerce paid social agency can be a smart idea.

That’s where Credo can help. We have dozens of vetted paid social and ecommerce agencies, including the ones below, in our network.

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