Because of its impressive algorithmic matching capabilities, TikTok is excellent at delivering a never-ending stream of extremely entertaining material that’s tailored to your own tastes.

However, in such a setting, are advertisements effective? The ease with which short video snippets can be scrolled through makes it a good thing for advertising, right? TikTok advertisements may not have a high engagement and reaction rate since users may just swipe away an ad that appears.


That’s what TikTok sought to determine with a new research report, partnering with neuromarketing research firm MediaScience to run a series of ad tests, with 343 participants, to measure engagement, recall and overall response, in comparison to competing platforms.

Even though this is a lab-controlled experiment, the description suggests that it closely mimics the normal in-app experience.

A TikTok experience or one of three competitive platform experiences were available to participants who browsed at their own speed. Participants were free to skip advertisements and content as they usually would throughout each session, which featured an average of eight different test ads.

In order to get a better understanding of whether TikTok promos are effective and resonant, MediaScience utilized eye-tracking, heart rate monitoring, and GSR technologies to track how participants reacted to each ad.

They discovered the following:

To begin, even with short exposure periods, TikTok commercials generated high levels of brand memory.

Advertisements on TikTok show high brand recall independent of view length since brand memory improves with time spent watching the ad.” When compared to advertisements seen for 20 seconds or more, ads on screen for 6 seconds or less still generated 38% of the recall.”

TikTok ad response study

TikTok users’ engagement with material may be related to this, since brief snippets need more rapid attention due to the limited amount of time available to grasp the context of each. Because they’re more engaged, it’s possible that this translates to greater recall from shorter exposure times for TikTok users.

This is further confirmed by TikTok’s analysis of overall interaction time, which found that:

In the initial few seconds, TikTok attracts early attention and physiological engagement, regardless of how long an ad is shown on screen. To put it another way, advertisements on TikTok have an effect with their audience faster than comparable ones on other platforms.”

TikTok ad response study

TikTok also says that brand messaging was better received on TikTok than it was in other apps, with brands advertising on TikTok driving stronger brand perception than on other platforms.

TikTok ad response study

Of course, the strategy and details of the advertisements shown also have a role. It’s not surprising that users would be more open to such content if the TikTok ads are more aligned with organic TikTok content (as the platform has repeatedly advised) and therefore feel more natural in the feed than disruptive promotions. The reflected cool factor of TikTok could also at least partially rub off on brands that get it right.

Other factors should be taken into account, but the data presented here indicates that TikTok users are receptive to promotional material, and the reaction and engagement rates are usually greater than on other platforms, at least in part due to the more concentrated in-app interaction.

A variety of variables, such as audience fit and strategy, will have an impact on how well it converts into real sales. It does demonstrate that businesses that put in the effort to understand how and which promotions perform best on TikTok may reap substantial rewards.

Maybe worth considering in your holiday marketing planning – you can check out TikTok’s full study notes and tips here.