Stop the Scroll: The secrets to creating distinctive TikTok ads that entertain and deliver

How can brands go beyond emotional connection and entertainment to create effective advertising that delivers results?
30 March 2023
lynne deason

Head of Creative Excellence, UK

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Available in more than 150 markets in 75 languages, no video app is on more mobile devices worldwide. Last year (for the third year in succession), TikTok took the accolade of being the world’s most downloaded app with 642 million* downloads. Of TikTok’s millions of users, 1 in 4 can’t be found on any other platforms.  

Given the sheer scale and ability to reach this actively engaged community, it’s no surprise that TikTok is a place where brands are desperately hungry to be. WARC has recently upgraded its 2023 ad spend forecast for TikTok by almost $2bn to $15.2bn, noting that 75% of marketers plan to increase their activity on the platform: that equates to a 52% increase in ad revenue over 2022! 

TikTok is all about joyful, fun, entertaining and personally resonant and meaningful experiences. The ‘For you’ feed is designed to ensure that the stream of content people see delivers a particularly enjoyable and emotionally engaging experience because it taps into their interests and other content that they’ve enjoyed, so people see more of what they love. CommunityToks, similarly, are another route to ensuring content sings to what people care about and are really interested in. When content doesn’t give instant hit of entertainment, that personal emotional connection or an immediate joyful high – then it gets scrolled past in nano seconds! The data below, from 2022’s Kantar Media Reactions study brings this to life beautifully.  


No surprise then that advertising which feels like an unwelcome disruption to this joyful experience will quickly be scrolled past. Creating content that is synonymous with the kind of experience that people are seeking and expecting on TikTok is imperative, but let’s be honest, you are creating advertising, you have a commercial and strategic goal in mind, a task at hand that the advertising needs to deliver. To seize the opportunity, you therefore need to know how to create content that not only stops the scroll but also delivers results.  

Marketers are more likely to take a risk and gamble with the effectiveness of their digital content, but this comes with risks. The stakes may feel less high, especially in terms of time and cost investment, but Kantar evidence shows that digital content can damage what people think and feel about your brand as well as their likelihood to purchase. Is this a gamble that you’re willing to take? Kantar can help you make informed decisions – and not just on an ad-by-ad basis – but in terms of a broader learning journey and ways of working that primes you for success. 

TikTok and Kantar’s joint webinar ‘Stop the scroll: the secrets to creating distinctive TikTok ads that entertain and deliver’ focused on just that: How to create content that is embraced and enjoyed on TikTok but also contributes to your brand’s success. We identified six practical tips that everyone can apply when creating advertising for use on TikTok. 


Let’s take a brief look at each of these:

1. Entertain from the outset; be distinctive and make them feel something.

Scrolling from one piece of content to the next on TikTok is so easy and is an enjoyable part of the experience. People have instant control over what they see - if it doesn’t hit that personal entertainment sweet spot immediately those thumbs or fingers instantly get to action to see if the next thing does. To avoid the scroll, it’s therefore critical to hook them in from the outset. Our human brain pays attention to things that are really different, things that are highly personally relevant to us and things that make us feel something.

What’s the hook in your ad? Why should people give it their time and attention? Will your ad make them feel something? Is it original and distinctive? How does it entertain from the get-go?

2. Create content that feels like it belongs on TikTok. 

If your advertising feels like an unwelcome disruption on the platform, it’s likely to irritate people and they will once again simply scroll onto the next thing. Your goal is to be part of what people enjoy, not an interruption to their pleasure. Content creators can be a powerful short-cut to creating that distinctive TikTok look and feel.

Does your content feel native to the TikTok platform, or does it feel like an unwelcome disruption to an otherwise enjoyable experience? 

3. Tap into the zeitgeist, existing trends or create your own. 

TikTok is a cultural engine; a birthplace of trends that can gain traction at breakneck speed. Some are momentary, others come alive outside of the platform and become part of broader cultural fabric beyond the community. Brands can leverage existing trends on the platform to help their content stand out and earn attention but need to find their own distinctive way to use it so that their content feels original and interesting, as opposed to the scroll inducing instinctive ‘seen it before’ reaction. Some of these trends are very transient, seize the moment whilst it’s hot property before the next thing surfaces. As in other contexts, tapping into culture or human truths is a great way to earn attention and evoke an emotional reaction, which is key to earning attention, retaining engagement, and borrowing all the feelings, thoughts, memories and fame associated with it. 

Are you tapping into culture to create engaging content, build emotional closeness, resonance and relevance with your audience and borrow meaning? Are you doing so in a way that is distinctive, original and authentic to your brand?

4. Keep them hooked… create FOMO… but make it as short as it can be. 

Once you’ve hooked them in, the next challenge is to retain them for as long as you can. Content needs to be gripping, entertaining and intriguing to stop the scroll. Don’t take the gamble that people will stick with your ad, land the point you want to make as early as you can, keep the content as short as it can be to deliver against the task at hand. Ensure that what’s most interesting and engaging in your ad helps deliver your objective. 

What is it about your ad that means that people will feel compelled to give their precious time to it and stick with it? Is what you want to convey dramatized in the ad or incidental to it? Do you land your message quickly or are you taking a gamble that they will stick with it until the end?

5. Make a positive difference. 

TikTok's mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy. The aim is to create a community where people can create, share, discover the world around them, and connect with others across the globe. Diversity, inclusion, and authenticity are key values that the brand stands by, and creators are encouraged to truly celebrate what makes them unique. These values (and the sense of being part of a community of people coming together with shared passions, values and grievances) – mean that it is great platform where brands can make a genuine difference. This can be through nuanced positive portrayal of diverse and underrepresented communities, or through rallying the community to bring about genuine change on issues that matter such as sustainability. When ads do this well, they not only play an active role in bringing about genuine and positive change to the world, they also deliver better commercial results. 

How can you make a positive difference to the world through your advertising? Do you know how to represent diverse audiences, people who are potentially very different from you, in a nuanced way?

6. Make a brand centric TikTok.

You may share TikTok’s mission to bring joy, but when it comes to advertising, you’re creating it to contribute to the success of your brand and achieve specific objectives. Brand centricity is fundamental to this. Integrating distinctive brand assets is an obvious way to help support this, but there are many more factors to consider. Is your brand central to the drama and what’s interesting to the ad? Could only your brand make this TikTok? Does the vibe fit instinctively with your brand? Does it reinforce what makes your brand different to other alternatives? Is it delivering the task at hand? Don’t let this be an afterthought, it needs to be at fulcrum of the idea. If it isn’t, please donate your budget to a charity you care about instead.

Is your brand at the heart of what’s interesting in your TikTok or is it incidental to it? Have you retained your brands authentic identify and vibe or has that been compromised in your focus on entertaining the audience and being native to the platform? Is what’s engaging and memorable about your ad connected. 

Sound is so fundamental to success on the platform that we chose not to pull it out as a theme, but its influence on the effectiveness of content on TikTok shone through brightly, like a 12000-lumen torch in the dark. To experience that for yourself please do rewatch the webinar, or to find out more about the role it plays and how to leverage sound and music in the most effective way then please do reach out.

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