How to Advertise on TikTok in 2023: An 8-Step Guide to Using TikTok Ads

If you still think TikTok is just for kids, you’re missing out on an important social media advertising option for your brand.

TikTok now has over 1 billion users, and TikTok ads can now reach an estimated adult (18+) audience of 825 million people worldwide.

2022 TikTok advertising stats

If you’re marketing to younger adults, especially women, advertising on TikTok is a natural fit. 36% of TikTok users are aged 18 to 24. Women in that age category make up almost 20% of TikTok’s advertising audience.

Source: Hootsuite

TikTok’s largest audience is in the United States at 109,538,000 people. But what’s more interesting is the percentage of the adult population TikTok ads can reach in countries outside of North America, especially the Middle East and Asia.

Source: Hootsuite

If you’re marketing to an international audience, ads on TikTok offer excellent reach.

So, who should invest in advertising on TikTok? While brands with a wide range of audiences may find it worthwhile to test a small TikTok campaign, TikTok ads will likely have the best results for:

  • Brands marketing to customers 35 and under
  • Brands targeting women, especially those aged 18 to 25
  • Brands with (or hoping to build) a strong presence in Asia or the Middle East

Types of TikTok ads

Here are all the kinds of ads you can run on TikTok’s ad platform and its family of apps. Not all ad types are available in all areas. Check out the TikTok ad specs for all formats further on in this post.

In-feed ads

These are self-service ads you can create yourself through the TikTok Ad Manager interface.

Image ads

Running only in TikTok’s News Feed apps (BuzzVideo, TopBuzz, and Babe), these include an image, brand or app name, and ad text.

Video ads

Video ads are available for TikTok itself or for the TikTok family of news apps. They run as 5-60 second full-screen videos in the user’s For You feed. Each ad includes a video, an ad display image, brand or app name, and ad text.

Source: TikTok

Spark ads

Spark ads allow your brand to boost organic content from your own account or from other users. TikTok research shows Spark Ads have a 24% higher completion rate and 142% higher engagement rate than standard In-Feed ads.

Pangle ads

Ads placed through the TikTok Audience Network.

Carousel ads

Running only in TikTok’s News Feed apps, these include up to 10 images with unique captains per ad.

Source: TikTok

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.

Source: TikTok

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.

Branded Effects

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

Source: TikTok

How to set up a TikTok ad campaign

To set up a TikTok ad campaign, just head over to TikTok Ads Manager. If you haven’t created a TikTok Ads Manager account, you’ll need to do that first.

Note: If you’re just looking to boost existing content, you don’t need an Ads Manager account. Instead, you can use TikTok Promote. Skip to the end of this section for more details.

1. Choose your objective

To get started, log into TikTok Ads Manager and click the Campaign button. TikTok has seven ad objectives broken down into three categories:


  • Reach: Show your ad to the maximum number of people (in beta).


  • Traffic: Drive traffic to a specific URL.
  • App Installs: Drive traffic to download your app.
  • Video Views: Maximize video ad plays (in beta).
  • Lead Generation: Use a pre-populated Instant Form to collect leads.


  • Conversions: Drive specific actions on your site, like a purchase or subscription.
  • Catalog Sales: Dynamic ads based on your product catalog (in beta, and only available to those with a managed ad account in supported regions).

Source: TikTok

2. Name your campaign and set a budget

Give your campaign a name that is easily recognizable to your team. It can be up to 512 characters.

If you have bottomless pockets or prefer to set the budget limits for specific ad groups rather than the whole campaign, you can choose to set No Limit on your campaign budget. Otherwise, choose whether you want to set a Daily or Lifetime budget for your campaign (more on that below).

Source: TikTok

Campaign budget optimization is also available for the App Installs and Conversions objectives using the Lowest Cost bidding strategy.

For optimized Cost Per Click objectives, TikTok is beta testing a feature to provide a suggested bid.

3. Name your ad group and select placements

Each campaign includes from one to 999 ad groups. Each ad group name can be up to 512 characters.

You can choose different placements for each ad group. Not all placements are available in all locations:

  • TikTok placement: In-feed ads in the For You feed.
  • News Feed App placement: Ads within TikTok’s other apps—BuzzVideo, TopBuzz, NewsRepublic, and Babe.
  • Pangle placement: The TikTok audience network.
  • Automatic placement allows TikTok to automatically optimize ad delivery.

Source: TikTok

4. Choose whether to use Automated Creative Optimization

You won’t upload your creative until you get to the stage of creating individual ads. But for now, you can decide whether to let TikTok automatically generate combinations of your images, videos, and ad text. The ad system will then only show the best-performing ones.

TikTok recommends that new advertisers turn this setting on.

5. Target your audience

Like most social ads, TikTok allows you to show your ads specifically to your target market. You can use a lookalike or custom audience, or target your ads based on:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Language
  • Interests
  • Behaviors
  • Device details

Source: TikTok

6. Set your ad group budget and schedule

You’ve already set a budget for your overall campaign. Now it’s time to set the budget for the ad group, and to set the schedule on which it will run.

Choose a daily or lifetime budget for your ad group, then choose the start and end times. Under Dayparting, you can also choose to run your ad at specific times throughout the day (based on your account time zone).

7. Set your bidding strategy and optimization

First, choose your optimization goal: conversion, clicks, or reach. Your campaign objective may automatically determine this goal.

Next, choose your bidding strategy.

  • Bid Cap: Maximum amount per click (CPC), per view (CPV), or per 1,000 impressions (CPM).
  • Cost Cap: An average cost per result for optimized CPM. The cost will fluctuate above and below the bid amount but should average out to the set bid.
  • Lowest Cost: The ad system uses the ad group budget to generate the maximum number of results possible at the lowest cost per result.

Source: TikTok

Finally, choose your delivery type: standard or accelerated. Standard divides your budget evenly over the scheduled dates of the campaign, whereas accelerated delivery spends your budget as fast as possible.

Source: Standard vs. Accelerated Delivery budget allocation on TikTok

8. Create your ad(s)

Each ad group can have up to 20 ads. Each ad name can be up to 512 characters, and is for internal use only (it does not appear on the ad itself).

First, choose your ad format: image, video, or Spark ad. If you’re sticking to TikTok itself (rather than the family of TikTok apps), you can only use video or Spark ads.

Add your photos or video, or create a video within Ads Manager using the video template or video creation tools. Note that TikTok research shows using the TikTok video editor can decrease cost per action by up to 46%.

Choose one of the default thumbnails, or upload your own. Then, enter your text and link. Check out the preview of your ad on the right of the screen, add any relevant tracking links, and click Submit.

Source: TikTok

Your ad will go through a review process before going live.

Note: To use Spark Ads, you’ll need to contact the creators of the content you want to use so they can provide an access code. Get the full Spark Ad instructions from TikTok.

If you’d prefer to work with a TikTok creator on a custom campaign, check out the TikTok Creator Marketplace.

Or, boost existing content with TikTok Promote

TikTok Promote allows anyone aged 18 or over to promote existing content. It’s the TikTok equivalent of Facebook Boost.

Here’s how to boost a TikTok:

  1. From your TikTok profile, tap the three line icon for settings, then tap Creator tools.
  2. Tap Promote.
  3. Tap the video you want to promote.
  4. Choose your advertising goal: More video views, more website visits, or more followers.
  5. Choose your audience, budget, and duration, and tap Next.
  6. Enter your payment info and tap Start Promotion.

TikTok ad specs

In this section, we’ll focus on ads that run on TikTok itself, rather than the family of TikTok news apps.

TikTok video ad specs

  • Aspect ratio: 9:16, 1:1, or 16:9. Vertical videos with a 9:16 ratio perform best.
  • Minimum resolution: 540 x 960 px or 640 x 640 px. Videos with a resolution of 720 px perform best.
  • File types: mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • Duration: 5-60 seconds. TikTok recommends 21-34 seconds for top performance.
  • Max file size: 500 MB
  • Profile image: square image less than 50 KB
  • App name or brand name: 4-40 characters (app) or 2-20 characters (brand)
  • Ad description: 1-100 characters, no emojis

Spark ad specs

  • Aspect ratio: Any
  • Minimum resolution: Any
  • Duration: Any
  • Max file size: Any
  • Account mentions and emojis allowed
  • Display name and text come from the original organic post

Note: Character counts are based on Latin characters. For Asian characters, generally the allowed character count is half.

How much do TikTok ads cost?

Minimum budgets

TikTok ads are based on a bidding model. You can control costs through daily and lifetime budgets for campaigns and ad groups. The minimum budgets are:

Campaign level

  • Daily budget: $50USD
  • Lifetime budget: $50USD

Ad group level

  • Daily budget: $20USD
  • Lifetime budget: Calculated as daily budget multiplied by the number of days scheduled

TikTok is tight-lipped about specific ad costs, but they do reveal the following tips and insights:

  • If using a Bid Cap or Cost Cap bidding strategy, set your initial campaign level budget at No Limit and the daily ad group budget to at least 20x your target cost per action (CPA).
  • For App Event Optimization, set an initial budget of at least $100 or 20x your target (CPA), whichever is higher.
  • For Conversions campaigns using the Lowest Cost bid strategy, set an initial budget of at least $100 or 20x your target (CPA), whichever is higher.

TikTok ads cost examples

TikTok also reveals the costs for some specific campaigns, which may help you benchmark your own spending:

Skincare brand Synth Labs Intl. ran a Spark Ads campaign to drive 300,000 impressions at $0.32 CPC.

Source: TikTok

Online jewelry store Lion Wild used video ads to drive a 19.35% conversion rate at $0.13 CPC and $0.17 CPM.

Source: TikTok

Online gaming marketplace G2A used video ads to achieve 12 million impressions at $0.16 CPM and $0.06 CPC.

Source: TikTok

Mobile games publisher Playa Games used video ads to achieve a 130% return on ad spend with a €0.06 CPC.

Source: TikTok

BVOD streaming service TVNZ OnDemand had an 0.5% click-through rate at NZ$0.42 CPC.

Source: TikTok

Beauty brand Mallows Beauty saw a 2.86% click-through rate at £0.04 CPC.

Source: TikTok

Maker marketplace Strike Gently Co. used TikTok Promote to drive a 1.9% click-through rate at $0.27 CPC.

Source: TikTok

Hyundai Australia used video ads to drive an 0.88% click-through rate at less than $0.30 CPC.

Source: TikTok

TikTok ad costs are subject to sales tax if applicable in your region. In the U.S., only advertisers based in Hawaii pay sales tax (4.71%). UK advertisers pay VAT of 20%. This amount is applied to your total ad spend, so be prepared for your bill to include tax.

TikTok advertising best practices

Mix and match your creative styles

Rather than using one type of creative, or very similar creatives, switch up your style. TikTok suggests updating your creative every seven days to avoid audience fatigue.

Switch it up within each video, too. TikTok recommends varied scenes with B-roll or transition footage.

Get to the point

Video ads can be up to 60 seconds long, but TikTok recommends keeping them to 21-34 seconds.

Make the first 3 to 10 seconds especially eye-catching and engaging to avoid losing viewers. The best-performing TikTok ads highlight the key message or product within the first 3 seconds.

Use sound plus captions

93% of top-performing TikTok videos use audio, and 73% of TikTok users said they would stop and look at ads with audio. In particular, fast tracks above 120 beats per minute usually have the highest view-through rate.

But captions and text are important too. In particular, use text to highlight your call to action. TikTok found 40% of auction ads with the highest view-through rate include text overlays.

Stay positive and authentic

TikTok recommends that videos stay “positive, authentic and inspiring.” This is not the place to test out your dark and moody content or use a heavy-handed sales pitch. You also don’t want a video that looks too “produced.”

Try using user-generated content in your ads to keep them truly authentic. For example, one in three of the top auction ads involves someone looking directly at the camera and speaking to the audience.

The Australian brand Royal Essence used this strategy to get 2.2 million impressions and 50,000 clicks.

3 TikTok ads examples

1. Penningtons

Canadian clothing band Penningtons partnered with the creator Alicia Mccarvell to create in-feed video ads that saw 53% more comments, 18% more likes and 55% more views than the company’s content on other platforms.

The key to success: Partnering with an established creator (a.k.a. influencer) who understood how to produce authentic TikTok content that showed off the brand without feeling too salesy.

2. Little Caesars

Little Caesars used Spark Ads to amplify content from 13 creators they partnered with for their #GoCrazy campaign.

The key to success: They gave the creators complete creative control, and learned a few things in the process. They found TikToks featuring families produced the highest click-through rates for their campaign.

3. wet n wild

Wet n wild used a branded hashtag challenge to help launch their new Big Poppa mascara. Their #BiggerIsBetter challenge saw 1.5 million user videos made and 2.6 billion total views.

The key to success: wet n wild used a combo strategy of a branded hashtag challenge + a custom sound + creator partnerships + Top View ads. Each component magnified the others, resulting in massive reach.

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Published by
Christina Newberry