So what if TikTok gets banned?

The lessons you’re learning from it aren’t what you think

Mention TikTok in a room of marketers now, and you’ll get:

  1. Some strong opinions
  2. Some anxious hand-wringing

Yes: it’s controversial. Yes, it could get banned by the UK and US governments. But it is also true that it’s huge; that millions of people are using it — and that those brands that are on it aren’t wasting their time, even if a ban does happen.

The internet is right now undergoing a seismic shift — probably the biggest since social marketing arrived. The technologies we’ve all relied on for years are on their way out. Cookies are being killed off in 2024; Apple has bought in App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which has been hailed as an ‘extinction event’ within the digital economy; and Google is about to switch off both Google Analytics and it’s A/B testing tool Google Optimise.

In short: what you thought you knew about people online is about to be shut into a vault and the key destroyed. Retargeting, cookies and all the rest are going — and marketing on the internet will be once again like old fashioned ad buying: done by interest, with the best content coming out on top. Ads will have to be good, rather than just chase people until they give in. It will matter that your brand is strong enough to be easily understood.

Which brings us back to TikTok

The criticism here, aside from the ban, and in a pure digital marketing sense — is that you can only target by interest, that you can’t be sure who’s watching and what they’re doing.

This is the way the internet is going. It’s already started with ATT, it’s ramping up with Analytics removal, and it’ll be all the way there next year when cookies are finally killed.

The creator economy that TikTok has boosted beyond measure won’t go away with any ban, but will likely move onto competitor platforms such as Youtube Shorts (which might even have more features).

But moreover, the TikTok way of engaging at a media level, of understanding interests and targeting consumers as rounded individuals — well, that will stay. And in fact, it’ll be something that applies to virtually all online advertising in a year or so. If you work in B2B, as we do, these changes will hit our cautious, funnel-based marketing sector even harder.

So yes, it might get banned. But brands of all kinds should get in and get to know it before it does. It’s a vision of the internet that is coming for us all.

Featured image: Liviu Gorincioi / Pexels

Jason Talbot, Managing Director at The Croc

Having failed to break through into professional sports after puberty he did the next best thing and went into the advertising industry with Saatchi & Saatchi. Since then Jason has been lucky enough to work with some of the finest marketers and best brands in the world, from Masterfoods, Fiat and Emirates Airlines to Amazon Cloud Services, Google and Sky Business. To this day he continues to dabble and fail at sports.

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