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AD STARS 2019: What Exactly is TikTok, And Why It’s High Time We Talked About It

BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA – Day two at AD STARS 2019, one of Asia’s most revered advertising festivals, Steven Zhang who heads the brand partnerships for TikTok in Korea, Russia, and Middle East took the stage and talked about their platform: what it is, who are the people using it, and why it’s become such a success. The mobile app, after all, has been downloaded more than 800 million times across the globe.

Zachary Lim, a senior copywriter for Wunderman Thompson Philippines sat down and painted a picture of just how successful TikTok is, and shared with adobo magazine his musings during the panel:

A young man yells “Reeeee!” as he lands bare-butt first onto his phone. Mirrored images of a cat split in a three by three grid to dances to “Mr. Sandman”. A squeaky toy chicken sings a cover of “Havana”.


This is the lawless land of TikTok.

The app was unleashed on September 2016, and the growth of its user base hasn’t slowed down since. YouTube is already littered with TikTok compilation videos. Teenagers already quote notable TikToks as in jokes among friends. It’s less about whether or not the TikTok train will leave the station but more of us catching up with it.

TikTok content has reached almost radioactive levels of influence. The 15-second video limit has pushed people to make content that are easy to remember, replicate, and riff on. Quippish content and off-kilter humor has nestled its way into the heart of the internet.

This is the product of a land without rules; where kids without leashes are taking the platform and running with it. The app has given them a new lease on creativity. As a safe space for internet meme culture to thrive, far away from the judging eyes of parents and authority figures, the app has turned into a petri dish of random imagery, dance trends, and challenges.

With options for duets, video stitching, AR games, filters, hell even hand recognition, TikTok is definitely sitting among the top of the tech game. But what really sets it apart is a surprisingly robust editing interface complete with options for transitions, variable timing, filters and music. All those options packed into a simple single-screen UI that is Playskool easy to use, and can bring results that are some of the most entertaining stuff we’ve seen in a while. Because of its ease of use, TikTok may very well be the world’s intro course to editing with effects much like what Instagram, Snapseed, and VSCO did for creative literacy in photographs.

Unlike IG where the apps are still attached to an image-driven persona of the person, TikTok users seems to be obsessed on creation more than image. TikTok is possibly the only platform that can boast that 40% of their user base is creators.

Pushing the app is a strong belief in diversity. While TikTok may be for street dances in Japan and Korea, dance videos are much more traditional and festive in the middle east. Each local office is poised to learning about the local culture and what makes it tick.

Things may seem that they’re about to peak with the app but with plans for more branded content, work with influencers, and even more plans for localization across the world, this may very well be just the beginning of TikTok’s playbook. With userbases in the solid millions all across the world, why haven’t we been talking about TikTok?

About the Author

Zach Lim is a senior copywriter at Wunderman Thompson. His friends call him Zach but online he’s ayyypapi. He frequents the dark corners of the internet feeding on abstractionist memes and weird shit from Japan.

Partner with adobo Magazine

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