TikTok Ads 101: How To Create a Winning Campaign

TikTok advertising, a complete guide.

If you’re creating an online advertising strategy in 2023, you’d be remiss to overlook TikTok. TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2021, surpassing over one billion active users in the same year.

But TikTok users aren’t just on the app for memes and dance challenges—they’re also ready to shop. TikTok reported that its users are 1.5 times more likely to purchase a product after seeing it advertised on TikTok.

That means the TikTok platform is a smart place to go if you want to place ads that reach a highly engaged and large audience, especially members of Gen Z.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to create TikTok ads, and share some excellent advice from Parade, a brand that’s made a big splash with its own campaign.

TikTok advertising 101 

Let’s start with an overview of advertising options TikTok offers, as well as some technical details you’ll need to know before making an ad of your own.

What kind of ads can you place on TikTok?

The bread and butter of TikTok ads are in-feed ads—ads that appear as someone is swiping through the app to watch videos. These are the most affordable and accessible ads offered by TikTok, and also the ones we’ll be focusing on in this tutorial. They make the most sense for small to medium-sized businesses and are a great starting point for a TikTok campaign.

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In-feed ads fit seamlessly into the experience of using TikTok. They look exactly like a user-generated TikTok, except for a small Sponsored tag under the video’s caption. After a few seconds, a call-to-action button appears, such as Shop Now or Learn More, that is determined by whoever places the ad. This can be used to link directly to your website.

Although a user can immediately swipe past an in-feed ad, ones that are made well and fit into the culture and style of TikTok will be able to generate views, likes, shares, and comments, just like any other TikTok.

You can create and launch an in-feed ad yourself using the TikTok Ads Manager, which we’ll dig into below. TikTok also notes that ads can appear in several different places, including: in-feed, on the detail page, post-roll, and via story. This depends on what placement you select. 

TikTok also offers more premium ad options to its managed accounts, including options like: 

  • Branded Hashtag Challenge. Challenges are a popular part of TikTok’s culture, and this campaign has brands create their own with a hashtag that is then promoted, giving this option built-in viral potential.
  • Branded Effects. TikTok’s huge library of fun video effects can be added to with a branded effect created in partnership with an advertiser. Like a hashtag challenge, a branded effect encourages users to interact directly with your branding.

While these options can result in high engagement, they’re also out of reach for most brands. They’re typically used by major companies, like Apple or McDonald’s, or to promote a new movie. As you can probably guess, that means a high price tag, more technical expertise required, and the need to work directly with TikTok.

What about promoted TikToks?

If you’ve already spent some time making TikToks, you may have seen the option to promote a TikTok. This is not the same as placing an ad, but there are some similarities.

TikToks can be promoted natively on the app by tapping the three-dot symbol on your own TikTok, then tapping the Promote button with a flame shape. From there, you can choose a goal for your promotion (such as directing users to your website), define your target audience, and set a budget for your campaign.

This system uses “coins” if you have an iPhone, the same currency users can buy to give gifts to their favorite creators. This is the cheapest way to pay for placement on TikTok, with the cheapest option being a one-day campaign of 200 coins—about $2. If you use Android, you’ll pay with your local currency. 

A promoted TikTok could be used as a way to test the waters on the app, but its options are less sophisticated than the TikTok Ad Manager interface, which offers more precise audience targeting and allows you to upload a brand new video to serve as an ad. The ad manager will also provide more detailed analytics about the success of your campaign, allowing you to A/B test different spots. These promoted TikToks are also available to all users, not just those with a business account. You can only promote TikToks you’ve already posted to your own feed, as opposed to uploading a video that’s only intended to be an ad.

How much do TikTok ads cost?

TikTok’s self-serve in-feed ads allow you to set your own daily budget, starting at $5 per day when using TikTok’s simplified ad placement options. Obviously, the more you spend, the more potential you have to reach new customers.

For more experienced marketers, there are more customizable options that include bids, but you don’t need to worry about that if you’re new to advertising on TikTok.

Overall, your budget will be determined by many factors, such as how much your business has allocated to marketing and which platforms you’re targeting.

TikTok ad specs

Let’s get to the technical details. There are requirements for any video you place as an ad that you’ll need to fulfill. You can see a full list in TikTok’s help center, but here are some highlights:

  • Aspect ratio: 9:16, 1:1, or 16:9
  • Video resolution: Resolution must be ≥ 540 x 960 px, ≥ 640 x 640 px, or ≥ 960 x 540 px.
  • File type: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • Length: Up to 60 seconds, but TikTok recommends nine to 15 seconds.

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How to create your first TikTok ad

There are two ways to create campaigns on the TikTok Ads Manager—a simplified version and a custom version. The custom version is designed for experienced marketers and has more options, like creating an ad group or using a bidding strategy. But for a small to medium-sized business, the simplified version is straightforward, easy to use, and doesn’t require technical expertise.

For this tutorial, we’ll be looking at the simplified version. When you navigate to the TikTok ads manager, make sure to select “Simplified Mode” on the first page when prompted. 

Choosing custom or simplified process when building a tiktok ad

Step 1: Make sure you have a business account

In order to use the TikTok Ads Manager, you’ll need to have a business account for the platform. Switching over is both free and easy.

In the app, simply go to Settings and Privacy, then Manage Account, and tap Switch to Business Account. As a bonus, this will give you access to analytics that can tell you the best time to post on the app, as well as other features, such as a link in your bio.

Step 2: Turn on TikTok integration for your Shopify store

If you have a Shopify store, install the TikTok app. This offers other options for automated ad creation. As well, if you’re located in select countries, you’ll be able to launch a shopping tab on your TikTok profile.

Step 3: Open the TikTok Ads Manager

The TikTok app is built for mobile, but using your TikTok ads manager account is something you’ll want to do on desktop. Navigate over to ads.tiktok.com and log in with your TikTok business account.

Step 4: Set your advertising goal 

When you select Simplified Mode, TikTok will present you with four options to determine a goal (or campaign objective) for your campaign:

  • Increase traffic. Pick this if you’re hoping to get people to your store to be potential customers. 
  • Drive community interaction. A good option if your goal is to simply grow your presence on TikTok.
  • Generate customer leads. This method is designed to capture information from viewers via a contact form that can be used to retarget potential customers and nurture existing fans.
  • Get website conversions. Good if you’re looking to drive more conversions on your store’s webpage. 

Selecting an advertising goal when creating a TikTok ad

Step 5: Select your audience

The next screen will let you decide who exactly will see your ad. You can select “automatic audience” to let TikTok decide for you, but it’s also easy to add a few parameters of your own if you’d rather go the “custom audience” route.

You can select your audience based on gender, age, languages, and location. Based on what you select, a handy slider in the top right corner of the page will let you know the size your audience will be. 

Choosing audience type and size when creating a TikTok ad

You can also drill down further into areas of interest, such as clothing, cooking, or pets. You can target users who have a history of interaction with TikTok content, such as liking and commenting.

Setting interest and behavior when creating a TikTok ad

Then, TikTok will ask if you’d like to show TikTok ads on just TikTok or add placement on Pangle, which the ads manager refers to as a “Premium global publisher network.” 

📚Learn more: How to Define and Reach Your Target Audience

Step 6: Set your budget and schedule

Next, you’ll determine your daily budget, starting at a minimum of $5 per day or $70 for lifetime. You’ll then decide how long to run your campaign for. You can also select “no end date” to run your campaign indefinitely and stop it later on when you feel it’s done its job.

Setting a budget and schedule when creating a TikTok ad

Step 7: Create your ad

You’ve made it to the fun part. On the next screen, you can either select one of your existing TikToks to run as a video ad or upload a new one that won’t appear on your regular TikTok feed. 

You’ll also be able to write a caption for your ad and create a call-to-action button, such as Shop Now, with a link to your website.

Here are some things to keep in mind for your ad:

  • Adhere to TikTok’s technical guidelines for vertical video ads
  • Do not place text in the video that will be covered by the caption
  • Authenticity is key on TikTok, so your ad should fit into the look and feel of other TikToks

When in doubt, the best advice is to spend time on the app getting to know the culture and trends on TikTok to create a TikTok ad that blends in seamlessly. Scrolling your For You page will also bring up other ads to get a feel for how various brands are using the platform.

📚Learn more:

Step 8: Submit

You did it! When you hit Submit, your TikTok ad will go into a review process before it goes live to the world.

As your ad runs, you’ll want to monitor your results to learn what works and what doesn’t, so you can optimize for your next campaign.


Case study: Parade lingerie

Parade makes affordable, sustainable underwear and bralettes in bold colors for millennials and Gen Z. Unsurprisingly, it’s taken a big bet on TikTok advertising.

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Its campaign was handled by Darya Dziadzenka, a growth marketing manager at Parade. Darya gave us some insight into how she ran the campaign, including how it set its goal and created the actual video ads, and advice for budding TikTok marketers.

Parade tried a variety of goals for its campaign, including a mid-funnel approach that was simply optimized for getting a potential customer to initiate a checkout. But at the end of the day, Darya says conversion became their goal.

“It’s one of the strongest growth channels for us,” she says. “So the complete purchase was the conversion goal.”

Two women wear Parade intimates on the Parade homepage
Parade

Delivery matters more than follower count

For the campaign, Darya focused on recruiting smaller influencers to star in Parade’s ads. 

“I find it not to be super important what the follower count is, but more so the delivery and if the creator feels authentic to the brand,” she says.

The benefit of that is the ads feel like any other fashion TikTok you might find on the app, so they blend in seamlessly when someone is scrolling.

“The key thing to success on TikTok is making the content as organic to the platform as it can be,” Darya says.

That also meant incorporating humor into the ads to create a relatable brand voice. Parade chose the sounds or music for each video and gave each influencer a brief with guidance on what styles to model, but each star was able to lend their own flair to each ad. Again, it’s all in the name of keeping things authentic.

Mistakes are opportunities to learn

Darya says there were some stumbles along the way. At one point, they tried creating more editorial-style ads that you would normally associate with a fashion brand, with more calming music and less humor. But they didn’t perform well.

“They just didn’t scale as much as the trending fun sounds that feel more on brand and more aligned with what Gen Z wants to hear,” Darya says. 

“I think the sounds that have words in it play very well, because people are less likely to scroll past those.”

Authenticity reigns

Darya says that to make your ads work, you need to think like a creator. That means spending time on the app watching TikToks and interacting with content to understand what people like watching. Simply bringing over an ad that might work on another platform doesn’t cut it.

“Try to make ads that don’t sound like ads, but something that you would actually enjoy watching on TikTok yourself, and incorporate the message within that,” she says.

Start your first TikTok ad campaign

Now that you know the basics of creating a TikTok ad campaign and have some great advice from Parade, you’re ready to start doing it yourself.

Remember that every marketing strategy will take some trial and error. Start small, review your metrics, and optimize as you go to create a TikTok ad campaign that will work for your brand.

TikTok Ads FAQ

How do TikTok ads work?

TikTok ads work by targeting viewers based on demographics, interests, and behaviors. Advertisers can create ads in the form of video, image, or hashtag challenges. The ads are then shown to the target audience in the form of sponsored videos, ads in the For You feed, hashtag challenges, or promoted trends. TikTok also allows advertisers to track their performance and make adjustments to their campaigns in real-time.

How much are ads on TikTok?

The cost of ads on TikTok varies depending on the type of ad, targeting, budget, and other factors.

Are TikTok ads worth it?

The answer to this question depends on the goals of your business. TikTok ads can be effective for reaching younger audiences, but it is important to conduct research to determine if this platform is the best fit for your business. Additionally, it is important to carefully plan your ad campaigns and track your results to ensure that you are getting the most out of your ad spend.

Are TikTok ads successful?

TikTok ads can be successful if used as part of a well-thought-out marketing strategy. To maximize success, marketers should create ads that are creative and entertaining, and that target the right audience. Additionally, having an optimized profile, engaging with followers, and using relevant hashtags can help to boost an ad's effectiveness.