Ananya Pathak

"Brands are adding TikTok to overall media plan": Sameer Singh

A chat with the head of monetisation of ByteDance India.

These are times when marketers are increasingly looking at the social space to connect with their audience. Social networking platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, amongst others are their top listed go-to platforms. While many of these decade old platforms have recently been under scrutiny for security and safety of both advertisers and consumers, the comparatively new entrant in the space - TikTok - has been emphasising on its commitment to brand safety for advertisers.

Launched in India in late 2017, the free to download app owned by ByteDance is a destination for creating and discovering short-form mobile videos. A go-to destination for 200 million+ Indians, the Chinese app caters to users from all over the country, across states, ethnicities, languages and city tiers.

Sameer Singh, vice president, Monetisation, ByteDance India
Sameer Singh, vice president, Monetisation, ByteDance India

We spoke to Sameer Singh, vice president, monetisation, ByteDance India, to get a sense of brand integration and advertising on the platform and to better understand the brand's safety policy for advertisers.

Sam, as he is fondly known as, joined ByteDance in August this year, after spending over three decades in the industry. Before this, he was chief executive officer, GroupM, leading their South Asia operations. In his prior stints, he has worked at Google, GSK, Procter & Gamble and IPG, across geographies including Palo Alto, Boston, London, Dubai and Guangzhou.

In his current profile, Singh works closely with ByteDance's partners and clients while leading the advertising, sales and marketing strategies across all of ByteDance's products in India.

Edited excerpts.

What are the advertising options that TikTok has to offer? Which of them are working?

TikTok's mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy. User Generated Content (UGC) has become the new point of entry for first-time internet users in India and brands looking to tap into this audience can benefit by being on a platform like ours.

Brands leverage TikTok's multiple ad offerings basis their campaign requirements:

- Brand Takeover is a gateway for digital traffic and with the full-screen vertical display, it helps advertisers take a dominant visual position to achieve brand exposure.

- In-feed Native Video allows for a more immersive, original and interactive format for ads, designed to trigger more in-depth interactions with the users.

- Brand Effects is designed with cutting edge technology and is tailor-made for advertisers. TikTok has various easy to use creative effects designed for the new generation of creators. For example, 2D facial effect, multi-screen lens, raindrop control lens, hair dye lens and cosmetic lens. This technology empowers creators and gives brands an instantaneous connection with the target audience.

We also have the innovative Hashtag Challenge, a unique ad format that enables brands to democratise their message with consumers. Verticals like FMCG, E-commerce and Auto see value in this format.

Also Read: TikTok: All you need to know about this hot new video platform

What do you see growing in the future – ads or brand integrations?

In the future, we will continue to see a mix of both advertisements as well as brand integrations, with ads driving reach and frequency while brands integrations will create impact and increased engagement.

TikTok ran into controversies in the past regarding its content. How do you ensure a safe playground for your partner brands?

Promoting a safe and positive in-app experience is TikTok's top priority. We offer both in-app tools and educational content to our users and brands. We have a robust community and ads policy guidelines which are updated continuously. In order to provide quality environment for advertisers and partners on our platform, we have employed a series of measures, including a dedicated moderation team with expertise on content management and local culture relevance.

Which categories do you see spending more in 2020?

In 2020, we foresee every industry vertical increase their digital ad spends. The democratisation of the internet and increasing mobile penetration has given brands an opportunity to target a new consumer pool that was unreachable previously. Brands are also asking for more holistic and long-term plans in addition to strategically adding TikTok to their overall media plan and not just as a one-off campaign.

Brands across sectors including but not limited to FMCG, E-commerce, Retail, Automobile, Fashion and Fin-tech are engaging with users on our platform.

What do you see driving TikTok in future?

Among the next wave of 200-400 million people who come online and consume content, there will be many who might experience TikTok as their first social media platform where they can interact not only with their friends and family, but also with like-minded users globally.

We believe that short, organic video content is here to stay and that it will continue to grow as users are looking for creative, snackable content online. We are continuously working towards developing interactive and trend-setting content, from launching challenges, hashtags to stickers, features and effects.