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How to Make Great TikTok Ads: The Complete 2024 Guide

TikTok advertising helps brands reach younger, content-hungry demographics. Follow these crucial tips and start creating your own winning TikTok ads.

Alyssa Hirose May 1, 2023
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TikTok Ads have the potential to reach 884.9 million people over the age of 18—that’s 18% of adult internet users. And worldwide, the average TikTok user spends almost 20 hours per month on the app.

The takeaway? TikTok advertising can be an incredibly lucrative pursuit (especially if you’re marketing to the gals: the audience for TikTok Ads is 57% female). Here’s how to make sure your ads are reaching their maximum potential.

Get our 2024 Social Trends report, and dig into the juicy data that’ll help you reach your goals in 2024—which is shaping up to be social’s best year yet.

What are TikTok ads?

TikTok ads are promoted content (usually full-screen videos) that a brand or creator pays to show to a specified target audience. Ads on TikTok are a form of social media marketing, and they usually aim to spread awareness about the advertiser or sell a particular product or service.

When it comes to TikTok ads, there are three levels of organization:

  • TikTok Ad: A single advertisement (usually in the form of a video that promotes a product or service, or a special TikTok offer).
  • TikTok Ad Group: A collection of TikTok ads.
  • TikTok Campaign: A collection of TikTok ad groups.

For example, a clothing company might make a TikTok video ad for a pair of sneakers, which is one of many different sneaker marketing videos in an ad group, which might then fall under a campaign about a summer footwear sale.

Types of TikTok ads

Ah, the age-old question: What’s your type? Read on for a list of the different kinds of advertising available on TikTok (not every type of Tiktok ad is accessible in every country, so make sure to confirm your local availability).

In-feed ads

In-feed ads on TikTok are ads that you can create yourself using the TikTok Ads Manager interface.

TikTok Video Ads

This is one of the most common forms of TikTok advertising. Video ads are made by brands or creators and posted through a TikTok Ads Manager account.

Video ads look like regular TikToks, but any interaction with a video ad leads to a landing page or an app install—in other words, TikTok video ads link directly to whatever is being advertised.

super mario bros movie sponsored TikTok ad

super mario bros movie vancouver showtimes
Source: TikTok

For example, this video ad for the Super Mario Bros. Movie appears just like your average TikTok. But when you tap the account name (or the custom call to action button), you’re taken to a landing page for the movie showtimes.

Video ads will appear automatically in a user’s feed for as long as the advertiser has paid for them. They are not permanent posts, and cannot be duetted or stitched.

Spark Ads

Spark Ads are different from regular video ads in that they boost organic content from any user’s TikTok account. They appear in your profile just like your other TikToks, and won’t disappear once you stop paying to promote them.

non-spark ads vs spark ads diagram
Source: TikTok Business Help Centre

Spark ads can be duetted or stitched, which allows your audience to more meaningfully interact with them (for better or for worse).

And because they won’t disappear after you’ve stopped paying for them, Spark ads can contribute positively to your brand’s overall metrics. According to TikTok, Spark ads have a 142% higher engagement rate than standard in-feed ads.

Spark ads can use content from your own business profile or from other content creators’ profiles (with permission—here’s how to get it).

TikTok Image Ads

Image ads are still images that include a brand or app name and ad text. They’re only available through the Global App Bundle and Pangle Placements (which aren’t available worldwide—this chart shows a country-by-country breakdown).

Playable Ads

Playable ads on TikTok act as simple, mini-games, and are great for engagement — who can resist a game? The feature is only available in select countries.

Shopping Ads

As of spring 2023, TikTok is phasing out both “Dynamic Showcase Ads” and “Collection Ads” and incorporating the main functions of these features into Video Shopping Ads, which are currently in the testing phase and only available to select advertisers.

Source: TikTok

There are three kinds of shopping ads:

  • Video Shopping Ads are shoppable videos that appear in a chosen audience’s For You page.
  • Catalog Listing Ads promote catalogs of shoppable products.
  • Live Shopping Ads show users who are watching your TikTok Live where they can get a specific product.

Carousel Ads

Carousel Ads are available only in TikTok’s news feed app series, BuzzVideo. Advertisers can post up to 10 images (each with its own caption) in one ad.

Pangle ads

These are ads placed through the TikTok Audience Network.

TikTok ads formats available to managed brands

Managed brands are those that work with a TikTok sales representative. (Need a TikTok sales rep? Contact them to see if your business is a fit.) They have access to additional ad formats, including:

TopView ads

Video ads that appear as a full-screen takeover for 5 to 60 seconds when users open the TikTok app.

Branded Hashtag Challenge

A three- to six-day ad campaign format to encourage engagement, in which user-generated content appears on the hashtag challenge page.

Source: TikTok for Business

Branded Effects

Branded stickers, filters, and special effects to get TikTokers interacting with your brand.

Source: TikTok for Business

TikTok ad specs

Set yourself up for social media success by ensuring that your TikTok ad is the right size, shape and format. Here are the optimal specs for a TikTok video ad:

  • Aspect ratio: 9:16, 1:1, or 16:9 (9:16 looks the best!)
  • Minimum resolution: 540x960px, 640x640px, or 960x540px.
  • Video file type: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • Video length: 5 to 60 seconds (TikTok recommends 9 to 15 seconds for best results)
  • Video file size: 500MB maximum

How much do TikTok ads cost?

The short answer? As much as you want them to. TikTok uses an auction and bidding model when it comes to ads. That means you decide how much you pay per video view, click, or impression.

Keep in mind that, while you can spend as much as you want per optimization goal, there is a minimum spend on both campaigns and ad groups.

The minimum campaign-level budget is $50 USD per day, meaning that for every day that your campaign is running, you will spend at least $50.

The minimum ad group-level budget is $20 USD per day, meaning that for every day that your ad group is running, you will spend at least $20.

TikTok says “Your bid, among other factors, represents how competitive you want to be in the auction to get your desired outcome.”

bidding and optimization with optimization goal and bid control
Source: TikTok Ads Manager

TikTok Bidding Methods

TikTok has four bidding methods available:

CPV

CPV is cost per thousand views. A view counts when a user watches your video for more than 6 seconds or when a user interacts with your video in the first six seconds (whichever happens first). CPM is a good bidding method if your goal is to get more views—the image above shows an example of CPM bidding.

CPM

CPM is cost per thousand impressions. Choosing this method means that the platform will push your ad to get as many impressions as possible, so it’s best if reach is your marketing goal.

oCPM

oCPM is optimized cost per thousand impressions. Your ads will be shown to people who are more likely to complete a conversion event, become a lead or install an app. It’s best if your goal is to gain followers, get app installs, or make sales.

CPC

CPC is cost per click. It’s best for selling products, app installs, conversion and profile visits.

If you’re new to TikTok ads, there’s a suggested bid feature that helps you determine which price you should set.

The higher your bid per action, the more likely you will be to beat out your competitors, and the faster you will hit both the ad group and campaign-level daily budgets.

TikTok Bidding Strategies

There are two main bidding strategies on TikTok:

Lowest Cost

When you use the lowest cost bidding strategy, you don’t set a specific bid per action: you only set a total campaign budget. TikTok will automatically maximize the number of conversions you get on your ad.

Cost Cap or Bid Cap

This strategy involves setting a specific bid price for your optimization goal. This is what TikTok has to say about this method of bidding:

“This is great for controlling the cost per acquisition (CPA), but there’s a caveat. Your CPA may fluctuate on a day-to-day basis, as it’s also dependent on the performance of your competitors. In addition, your budget may not be used up by the end of your campaign as competitors could be bidding at a higher price and outbidding you, thereby limiting the available inventory you might be eligible to win.”

How to set up a TikTok ad campaign

To create a TikTok ad campaign and set up your first ad, go to the TikTok Ads Manager. Make sure you’re using a TikTok for Business account (if you’re not, it’s free and easy to switch).

1. Create a new Campaign

First, go to the TikTok Ads Manager and hit the Campaign button in the top menu. From the Campaign page, click Create.

TikTok Ads Manager create campaign
Source: TikTok Ads Manager

Note: When you first create a campaign, the Ads Manager will give you the option to enter Simplified Mode or Custom Mode. Simplified Mode is a more basic program (according to the Ads Manager, you can make an ad in less than 5 minutes) and Custom allows you to set more complex configurations.

For this example, we’re using Custom, but the instructions are similar for both options.

Select a campaign objective

To make it easier for you to reach your marketing goals, TikTok has you choose an objective at the very beginning of your ad-making process (so make sure you know what your objective is before you start).

There are three kinds of objectives on TikTok’s Ad Manager: Awareness (making sure people know about your brand or product), Consideration (when a potential buyer meaningfully engages with your brand or product) and Conversion (actually buying the product).

advertising objective awareness consideration and conversion
Source: TikTok Ads Manager

Here’s a closer look at each objective.

Awareness

  • Reach: Show your ad to the maximum number of people.

Consideration

  • Traffic: Drive traffic to a specific URL or landing page (this can also be an app install page).
  • Video Views: Maximize the number of views and engagement you get on videos.
  • Lead Generation: Get leads for your business.
  • Community Interaction: Maximize the number of followers and profile visits you get.

Conversion

  • App Promotion: Get more people to buy and install your app.
  • Website Conversions: Increase valuable actions (like sales) on your website.

Choose whichever one best suits your campaign goals.

Name your campaign

Next, name your campaign and declare if it will fit into any special ad categories (housing, employment or credit—this declaration is meant to prevent discriminatory targeting).

settings campaign name and special ad categories
Source: TikTok Ads Manager

You can also choose whether you want TikTok to optimize your campaign budget (this applies one set of budget optimizations to all the ad groups in this campaign instead of setting them up individually).

Last on this page is the campaign budget: this allows you to set a fixed budget for the entire campaign—so, all of the ad groups, and all of the ads that fit into those ad groups. You can also set budgets for ad groups and ads individually.

2. Create an Ad Group

Okay, the campaign—the highest level of organization for TikTok Ads—is done. Now, on to the Ad Group settings.

Name your Ad Group and edit interaction settings

First, name your ad group. If you click Advanced settings under Placement, you can also choose whether users will be able to comment on, download and share your video ads (Psst: if you need help managing comments, Hootsuite’s got you).

ad group name and placements
Source: TikTok Ads Manager

Determine targeting for the Ad Group

Next, select your target audience for this ad. You can choose demographics like location, gender, age group and language, as well as most advanced targets like audience, interests and behaviours and device used.

targeting with demographics audience interests and device
Source: TikTok Ads Manager

Decide on Content Exclusions

Next is Content Exclusions. Your exclusions will automatically be set to Standard, but you can click edit to learn more about the different types of content exclusions.

Generally, this option determines whether TikTok will show your content alongside content containing mature themes—though not so mature that it violates the Community Guidelines, of course.

edit inventory tier full standard and limited inventory
Source: TikTok Ads Manager

Set your Ad Group budget and schedule

The next parameters to set are budget and schedule. Your daily budget is the maximum amount of money that you can spend in a day on this particular ad group. The minimum daily budget is $20 USD (or $30 if you’re in Canada like me, eh).

budget & schedule information
Source: TikTok Ads Manager

Set how long you want your ad to run for, and whether you want the ad to run at all times of the day or at set times of the day (for example, you can choose to run your ads on weekends only).

Set your Bidding and Optimization

The last step in the process of creating a new Ad Group on TikTok is bidding and optimization, which allows you to decide how much you’ll pay per metric.

bidding and optimization with optimization goal and bid control
Source: TikTok Ads Manager

In this case, because we chose video views as an objective, the metric is CPV: cost per focused view. “Focused View” means that the user either watches the video for six seconds or engages with the video in the first six seconds.

To use the lowest cost bidding strategy, leave the bid control section blank.

You can also edit the advanced settings to alter whether your ad will be delivered in a standard or accelerated fashion. “Accelerated” means that the platform will try and achieve your targets as quickly as possible.

3. Submit your Ad

Finally, it’s time to upload your creatives!

Upload your content

This is where you upload your content, write a caption, and choose your identity (either a display name or your own brand’s TikTok account, making the ad a Spark Ad).

ad name identity and ad details
Source: TikTok Ads Manager

Set your destination page

Set your destination page to your brand’s website (or a landing page for whatever product or service you are promoting) or use Instant pages to link to an in-app page. You can also add a legal disclaimer, if appropriate.

destination page URL and call to action
Source: TikTok Ads Manager

Determine your tracking

This step is optional: if you want, you can track events on your website, app or third-party sites.

TikTok events tracking and third party tracking settings

Submit your Ad

All done! Hit Submit to send your ad to TikTok for review. According to the platform, most submitted ads are reviewed in about 24 hours.

5 TikTok ads examples

StarStable Entertainment’s in-feed ads

This online horse adventure game used TikTok to increase in-app registrations in Germany and the U.S. They used attention-grabbing lines in the first few seconds of their in-feed ads so viewers didn’t get bored and scroll away, and also made sure to localize the language of their ads (ads placed in Germany were, you guessed it, in German).

SEEQ’s spark ads

Protein powder startup brand SEEQ used Spark ads to boost their organic content. They made behind-the-scenes videos and product-focused content—the same kind of content that they already made for their 30k followers—and paid to have those videos shown to more people who were more likely to buy their product.

NEST New York’s Black Friday ads

Perfume company NEST New York used TikTok’s catalogue ad feature to promote their products, and make it easier and quicker for consumers to buy their products. According to Google Analytics, 94% of folks who visited their website from TikTok were new (meaning they were reaching a fresh audience of interested consumers).

L’Oréal’s influencer marketing

L’Oréal used influencer marketing and the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag to advertise their products. They sent 200 influencers a box of their merch and used the videos that the influencers made in their campaign. According to TikTok, this resulted in “the highest sell-out for L’Oréal”

SweeTARTS’s branded film festival

The branded film festival held by SweeTARTS resulted in 2,000 short film entries; each entry was labeled with #SweeTARTSFilmEntry and tagged @SweeTARTSCandy in order to be considered. This was a super creative way to spread brand recognition and encourage users to generate their own content while also serving the brand.

TikTok advertising best practices

Ads on TikTok are very similar to regular TikToks (except for the cute little detail that you have to pay for them, of course). That means opportunities for creativity are limitless. Here are some guidelines for best practices to keep you on track.

Capture attention in the first 3 seconds

Since TikTok users have the attention span of goldfish (not confirmed by scientists, but likely true) you’ll want to grab your audience’s interest, and fast: TikTok suggests within the first 3 seconds. Cut to the chase or risk being scrolled into oblivion.

Abide by TikTok’s image and video specs

Content that is blurry or doesn’t quite fit the screen looks unprofessional, and users might dismiss your ad if it doesn’t look like it belongs on TikTok. Follow image and video specifications to set yourself up for success (exact specs are above, under “TikTok ad specs”).

Update your ads often

TikTok suggests testing lots of different kinds of ads when you first start advertising on the platform, and switching up your ads every 7 days to “avoid ad fatigue.”

Use TikTok’s Ad Library

The TikTok Creative Centre (the home of the TikTok Ad Library) is an excellent resource for inspiration, discovering trends and geting insights on keywords, top hashtags and other valuable information. Here’s 9 ways you can use the Ad Library to make better advertisements on TikTok.

Put important info in the middle of the screen

There’s lots going on on both the Following and For You Page on TikTok: the account name, video caption, sound, as well as the like, follow, share and save buttons are all on display. That means that some parts of your video (especially around the perimeter of the screen) might get cut off or hidden. To make sure that key info in your ad is communicated to your audience, keep important creative elements in the middle of the screen.

Localize your ad’s language

No matter how kickass your ad is, it’s not going to be very effective if the people watching it don’t understand it. Make sure you target locations with people who speak the language that your ad creative is in (or, translate your ad for use in other parts of the world).

TikTok ads FAQs

How do TikTok ads work?

Brands or creators pay for TikTok video ads to appear in user’s feeds along with regular content. Advertisers pay using a bidding/auction model, meaning that the advertiser determines what they are willing to pay per optimization goal (likes, impressions or views).

How much are ads on TikTok?

Campaigns on TikTok have a minimum budget of $50 USD per day, so that is the lowest amount that a business can spend per day on a TikTok ad. How that budget is used is determined by the bidding method and optimization goal: for example, a brand could decide they are willing to pay $0.10 per view of a certain ad.

Are TikTok ads worth it?

According to the TikTok Marketing Science Global Retail Path To Purchase Study, TikTokkers are 1.5x more likely to immediately buy something they discovered on the platform when compared to users of other platforms. If you have the proper marketing strategy and competitive bids, TikTok ads can absolutely be worth the investment.

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By Alyssa Hirose

Alyssa Hirose is a magazine editor, playwright, comedian and comic artist based in Vancouver, B.C. She attributes her great sense of humour to 9 years of braces and good ol' elementary school bullying (unrelated, unfortunately).

Read more by Alyssa Hirose

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