Santa has some new helpers: why brands will flock to TikTok influencers this Christmas

TikTok: Pret campaign
TikTok: Pret campaign

When a video of a single Leeds United goal gets more views than four top retailers' Christmas ads combined, change is in the air.

Write the ad, shoot the ad, order a Dishoom sausage roll in the edit and post the ad on YouTube.

For the past 10 years, launching a Christmas campaign has been formulaic. But this year is all change: there is a significant rise in brands looking to TikTok influencers for their Christmas campaigns.

In September 2020, The Extra Girl, age 22 – one of our clients at The Gold Studios – was sitting in her Fiat 500 posting TikTok videos to a handful of friends. Twelve months later, she has 1.4 million followers and is being pitched to by several global car manufacturers on their Christmas campaigns.


My life motto tbh

♬ original sound - mustache harry’s gf

We’ve seen mass and luxury brands jump on the TikTok bandwagon for their influencer marketing campaigns in recent months. They’ve signed celebrities, comedians, dance troupes, make-up artists and even lamb farmers. But the big boom is still to come with Christmas 2021 set to be the year of the TikTok influencer campaign.

Last year, Pret A Manger gave us a glimpse into the power of TikTok as one of the only UK brands to produce a Christmas campaign (main image). Its #JoyWithPret Challenge led to a staggering 1.5 billion views. Yes, 1.5 billion. It’s clear that the early adopters of the platform, such as Pret, are already reaping the reach rewards – and since then we’ve witnessed an almighty rise in British branded TikTok content strategies.


##ad Thanks for always bringing me Christmas Joy @brookepaintain .Tell us your ##JoyWithPret ##Ad


TikTok has grown exponentially since last December. It has supercharged its London team to 2,000 people (many of them in ad sales). Earlier this year the brand sponsored Euro 2020 and recently it launched a national brand campaign with Ant & Dec.

TikTok has made other strategic decisions, such as increasing the maximum video duration to three minutes (with live streams lasting up to 60 minutes). As a result, TikTok is already reporting a longer dwell time than rivals such as YouTube.

Most importantly, the platform has launched new s-commerce (social commerce) functionality within the app, allowing brands to sell directly to consumers. Until now, brands found it hard to quantify sales results from TikTok. But now that sales are coming directly from the platform, more and more brands are flocking to it. Brands are going to see directly how TikTok activity affects sales figures. Finally it will be measurable and have real tangible results.

It seems every industry wants a slice of the TikTok pie: Leeds United has become the first Premier League team to create an s-commerce store (this being their only win of the season so far). Leeds United footballers are working as “in-house” TikTok ambassadors driving traffic to the site from their own personal accounts (England star Kalvin Phillips has 322,000 followers). Meanwhile, Amazon Prime Video is using creators such as Juicy Boy (1.9 million followers) to promote its film adaptation of stage musical Everybody's Talking about Jamie


##ad Be who you are - AS YOU ARE - you are enough @primevideouk ##ad ##jamiemovie ##permissiontobeyou ##fyp ##jamie ##ad ##doitforthebiggirls

♬ Everybody’ s Talking About Jamie - Kacie Doocey, Lucie Shorthouse, Lewis Sharp, James Sharp, Dylan Gallah, Tyreese Remy- Henderson , Suki Wong, Zane Al- Saroori, Riya Gadher, Shaela Fox

Under Armour, meanwhile, is working with Anthony Joshua (179,000 followers) to host a four-week fitness camp on the app.

But come Christmas, we’re set for a volcano of activity. Expect to see brands launching diverse TikTok campaigns including branded AR effects, viral #Challenges, branded content, influencer marketing, traditional ad placements, sponsored hashtags, music sponsorship and live streams.

Everyone knows that brands want mass reach and high engagement – and TikTok is proving that’s exactly what they’ll get. So much so, if you add up the total for last year’s YouTube views for John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s Christmas ads (10 million total views on YouTube), it doesn’t even match the number achieved by Leeds United’s latest TikTok (13 million), in which Rodrigo scored against Newcastle. (Leeds didn’t win that game either.)


Rodrigo 1000 IQ ���� #leedsunited #premierleague #1000IQ #fyp

♬ Love Nwantiti(Dance Ver) - FYP��

But in every race to the top, there are not just winners and losers, there are those that don’t take part, and many brands will be staying away this Christmas because they don’t know what to do with the platform. Yes, many are stuck in the mindset that TikTok is just for kids. But they’re wrong. The platform is now straddling every age group, from dads watching while on the school run, to mums taking a quick peek at the office.

So, with only a month or so to go, brands are having to make an important choice. Will they go with the big hero TV ad seen by millions? Or the TikTok campaign seen by billions? Or will the smart one realise quickly that the secret to success is a mixed media approach. Yes, Christmas 2021 will likely be won by the brands that are willing to flock to the Tok.

Eddie Gold is chief executive of The Gold Studios, a creative agency for talent


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