WPP secures early access to TikTok ad products, creators in new global partnership

Dive Brief:

  • WPP and TikTok began a global partnership that grants the agency holding group early access to the social video app’s latest advertising products and mobile innovations, among other perks, according to a press release.
  • As part of the tie-up, WPP will receive exclusive access to some TikTok creators, opening collaboration opportunities for select advertising clientele. The agency conglomerate, for its part, is developing creator-focused applications for TikTok as the platform’s Lead Agency Development Partner, including ways for brands to glean deeper insights into talent and more easily connect with diverse voices.
  • GroupM, WPP’s media-buying arm, will continue its work on TikTok brand safety solutions and integrating third-party verification vendors. The agreement notches a victory for WPP as short-form mobile video continues a meteoric ascent and amid a broader quest to reignite growth at the agency giant.

Dive Insight:

WPP scores a big win in securing early access to TikTok advertising products and partnerships with platform creators, which include some big-name influencers as well as lesser-known names that can also provide value for brands. TikTok is in high demand with marketers as the video-sharing platform — the most-downloaded app of 2020 — continues to command consumer attention and set broader cultural trends. The companies will collaborate on training and accreditation programs for WPP that aim to lend agency talent more credibility across media and creative disciplines on the app.

“TikTok has quickly demonstrated the power of mobile video and the many opportunities that exist for brands to engage in meaningful and creative ways on its platform,” Mark Read, WPP’s chief executive, said in a press statement. “I am delighted that we have formed this global partnership, a first in our industry, and look forward to working with TikTok to ensure our clients continue to benefit from what its platform has to offer.”

TikTok has steadily built out an advertising platform to capitalize on massive user growth, with areas like augmented reality (AR) in the spotlight. Last year, it introduced its first global platform for marketers, TikTok for Business, as well a new Brand Scan AR format. WPP was one of the app’s early effects partners through its Subvrsive agency.

Beyond gaining a more direct line into TikTok’s mobile innovations, WPP also has a closer ear to the ground with creators, some of whom reach tens of millions of followers and shape what’s popular on the platform. The agency will apply its brand safety methodology and trove of client data to develop creator-focused APIs for TikTok, while GroupM will drill down into brand safety and ad-verification controls — areas TikTok has put a bigger spotlight on amid heightened scrutiny. The app in October partnered with OpenSlate, a provider of content ratings for digital platforms, to offer a third-party verified brand safety solution to advertisers.

The latest news marks another sign of maturity for TikTok, a social media disruptor that’s emerging from an extremely volatile period. The app owned by Chinese tech conglomerate ByteDance was threatened with a ban by the Trump administration, which viewed it as a national-security threat. It has scrambled to iron out a deal that will preserve its operations in the U.S., though the ban order itself now seems unlikely to come to fruition. While there are some lingering questions over how TikTok’s ownership structure will ultimately shake out, the WPP tie-up helps affirm that the platform is here to stay and will continue to draw advertiser interest.

WPP has enacted significant changes to spur growth following a rocky few years, with some pain points amplified by the coronavirus pandemic. But the health crisis has also opened a window to seriously shift strategy, and WPP is among a number of agency groups now ramping up offerings in areas like e-commerce and digital content to better serve client needs.

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