Q&A: How can brands keep up with TikTok trends?

We meet Karl Haddad, Head of Global Creative Lab at TikTok

MediaCat Magazine’s Content and Social Media Editor, Svilena Keane, sat down with Karl Haddad, Head of Global Creative Lab at TikTok, prior to his presentation ‘GRWM to change advertising forever’ at the D&AD Festival. Together, they discussed how the platform has evolved, its impact on traditional advertising, and how brands can keep up with the latest trends. 

Hi Karl, can you tell us a little bit about your role and TikTok Creative Lab?

Karl Haddad

Of course. Hi, I’m Karl Haddad. I head the Global Creative Lab at TikTok, and I’m based in New York. So, at the Creative Lab, our vision and mission are truly to remove any creative barrier for global accounts and agencies, for them to truly create global campaigns. We want to remove barriers and teach them how to create for TikTok.

There are still a lot of brands and agencies who know how to create TikTok first execution. We want to shift this mindset a little bit to go from one execution to a story and to start thinking about how we can create a full campaign on TikTok. We work very closely with creatives in ad agencies, creatives in brands, and creatives in media agencies, and we bring everyone to the table to help them become fluent in TikTok. So, the way we do it is through consultancy. We don’t produce anything, but we truly become, if you want, the third arm for the agency and for the brand, helping everyone understand TikTok.

TikTok trends are evolving by the second. How can brands keep up to date?

The way brands need to think about the trends is if you put them in three buckets, you have moment, signal, and forces. The moment, those are like, the brand needs to be best friends with their lawyer. Those are the ones that last for three, four days, or a week. So, you need to be very fast. Those, if you’re able to jump on them, great. Those are like, you imagine, right now, there is Pedro, Pedro, Pedro. So, for this, you need to be very fast because you know that it will not last more than a couple of weeks.

But after, the signal — those last usually for a year or a couple of months. Those, you think about behaviour. For example, get ready with me (GRWM). Brands can start building from those because you understand the behaviour and you can build from it. And after, the forces. Those are trends that last five to ten years. So, this is where you have the move from influencer to creator. If you think about trends in these three buckets, brands can start to learn from the moment and see there is a pattern. So they can create their own trend or jump directly on them. Signal is very easy to plan, and you have the forces, which we’re all living right now.

And for brands also, always check TikTok. It’s your best friend to see what’s happening on trend or, of course, the Creative Center. We have the Creative Center where you can go by vertical, by day, by country, where brands can get inspiration from what’s happening.

What would you say are the most common mistakes that you see brands make with their TikTok strategies? How would you recommend that they fix them?

The big misconception we see is brands and agencies still thinking about TikTok as a social media platform. In reality, we are an entertainment platform. So, you don’t check TikTok, you watch TikTok. TikTok grabs your full attention. And TikTok also sends you content that interests you. So, you don’t get the content from people that you follow; we’re based on a content graph versus a social graph.

So as long as brands and agencies start creating their content with the mindset of entertainment, they will succeed. And another one is to also start thinking about TikTok as a campaign from the beginning.

Considering your talk ‘GRWM to change advertising forever’, how has TikTok changed the industry, and how do you envision the future?

So, we’re all here [at the D&AD] because we love ads; we love an aspect of advertising, especially for me, I used to work in an ad agency. So, what’s changing? Right now, culture is no longer manufactured from top to bottom. When you think about it in the past, in traditional advertising, you used to have the brand or the agency creating content. They send it to TV or social, and work with influencers after to reach the community.

Right now, culture is powered by the community. So, right now, when you think about this communication cycle, it’s not linear anymore. You have the community and the brand and the creator. And what’s happening in the culture, they’re all building on each other’s ideas to create content. So, we always tell brands, ‘You need to act as a creator’. You cannot speak anymore from top to bottom to everyone. You have to build with the community. This is the big change we’re seeing in advertising. And for me, when you think about it, we used to do casting to find this one person to hold your product. Right now, with TikTok, you have millions of people engaging and holding your product. This was like a dream five years ago. It wasn’t possible. So, this is what is fascinating. And as a brand or agency, you cannot ignore this power of creativity that’s happening on TikTok.

We made our tools so easy on the platform that everyone can become a creator on TikTok. When we used to say, ‘Oh, ideas come from everywhere and anywhere’, now it’s actually happening because anyone can express and build their own creativity on the platform. And brands are jumping on it.

When you think about a campaign, the way you think about it and how you’re building it, you cannot not think about this big piece of the puzzle, which is the community, which is where the culture is happening. For that, we say culture starts on TikTok. So, you cannot predict culture anymore.

Karl Haddad at the D&AD Festival

Could you share the main takeaways from your presentation at the D&AD?

So first, talking about TikTok, creativity, and what it means for all of us in the advertising world. I’m also going to talk about how the mindset needs to change from a TVC to a TTC, which is a TikTok campaign. But at the end, we’re introducing for the first time ever a partnership with TikTok and the D&AD to create a masterclass on how to create a TikTok campaign. This is the first time ever that D&AD and TikTok are coming together, where we’ll have an expert from TikTok and an expert from the D&AD with the creator of the case study that won this year. We’re going to dissect all this work. And after, our masterclass will give all the tools, how to understand our ad product, how to understand trends, how to understand the behaviour so everyone can start creating a TikTok campaign.

So it’s truly a huge thing for us and the D&AD. I was even talking with the director of partnership and we were like, ‘Why did it take us so long?’ We both have the same mission of inspiring creativity in the world, and it feels like the perfect partnership to come together. So, we’re very excited about it because we truly want to teach everyone how to TikTok.

With TikTok having such a huge impact, could you comment on the implications of the TikTok Ban Bill?

For me, I’m always focusing on the creativity. We have a lot of people that are taking care of it. We know from a creative standpoint, we’re in this business as usual. And we have the full support of all our global brands and global agencies. So, honestly, the day-to-day hasn’t changed a bit for us.

And you’re not worried about it?

No, we’re here to stay.

Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to brands and content creators, what would that be?

Have fun and truly understand the community on TikTok. Think as a marketer, and act as a creator. TikTok is a full funnel, you can find from discovery and frame to conversion. As long as you act as a creator, you’ll find success.

Svilena Keane, Content & Social Editor at MediaCat Magazine

Svilena is the Content & Social Media Editor at MediaCat Magazine. She has a joint bachelor’s degree from Royal Holloway University, where she studied Comparative Literature and Art History. During her time at Royal Holloway, she was also the Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper The Founder. Since then, she has worked at a number of digital and print publications in Bulgaria and the UK, covering a wide range of topics including arts, culture, business and politics. She is also the founder of the online blog Sip of Culture and a self-published poet.

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