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With TikTok’s new search ad toggle, agency execs see marketers accelerating organic search efforts

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It’s early days for TikTok’s new search offering — a search ads toggle available via TikTok’s ads manager that was in beta until last week when it became available for all advertisers — but the ease of use as well as the discoverability focus both appeal to agency execs for their brand clients.

Search on the platform has been a bigger focus over the last year, with marketers seeking to figure out how to use changing consumer behavior when it comes to search, i.e. younger consumers using TikTok as a search engine, to their benefit. With the new search ads toggle, agency execs expect that increased interest in social search efforts on the platform will now not only focus on organic efforts but paid as well. 

The new search ads toggle uses the in-feed creative advertisers are already running on the platform by serving users those ads when they search for something said ad may be relevant to, per TikTok’s blog post. The platform has not been offering incentives to advertisers to get them interested in the search ads toggle, according to agency execs, who believe the simplicity of the offering — advertisers just toggle the search ads capability on or off — makes it an easy pitch for the platform. “It’s not a heavy lift on the agency’s end,” said Rachel Santare, director of performance marketing at PGR Media. 

“It’s compelling, it’s a really nice, non-invasive version of search integration,” said Kenny Gold, managing director and head of social, content and influencer at Deloitte Digital. “The product feels simple. Not bad simple but easy to understand [kind of] simple. They’re leaning into discoverability, they’re leaning into the fact that they have a high, unduplicated audience from other social channels. It’s a good reach play. I think they want to really infuse it into the self-serve platform.” 

It’s unclear how using the search toggle will impact CPMs as agency execs did not have insight on that. TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment on CPMs for the search ad toggle. 

The appeal of the new search offering will likely be the ability for advertisers to build on efforts they’ve already been running organically on the platform to create organic content that would show up in searches, explained agency execs, and now they easily put paid behind those efforts. TikTok has done a great job of emphasizing the need for organic content on the platform, said Brendan Gahan, chief innovation officer and partner at Mekanism, adding that the shop has done TikTok search ads and expects more interest there though organic will likely continue to be the focus. 

The addition of search ads on TikTok comes as advertisers are increasingly recognizing the connection of search and social. This is part of an overall shift to integrate search within social, according to agency execs, as marketers and agencies have been spending more time using keywords, search behavior and search intent, among other efforts, to help inform their organic content with the hopes it showing up when consumers search.

“What’s interesting about this is that they’re matching somebody’s search with an ad that’s hyper-relevant to that search,” said Christina Miller, head of social media at VMLY&R in London, adding that she has yet to activate the search ads toggle for a client, but that search conversations in general are happening. “You can imagine that people are going to be more receptive to that ad, to that brand and to product discovery because that’s something they’re actively seeking out, actively searching for.” 

Miller continued: “From a brand perspective, if I could serve my content to somebody who is looking for say, a hot chocolate recipe, and [they] didn’t think about Baileys hot chocolate as a great option for that [this search ad toggle allows me to now] get in front of [them]. That’s a no brainer. It’s what we’re trying to do organically but this just allows you to guarantee it.”

Sydney Madge, strategy director at Happylucky, echoed that sentiment. “For a long time, TikTok was just like we’re going to keep making this stuff with fingers crossed that it reaches the For You Page,” she said.

“If we make funny enough organic content, good enough organic content then it’s going to catch fire. That was the hope. Now the promise of search is that if you make good enough organic content you can make paid content that’s similar and then that, fingers crossed, becomes more of a certainty. We didn’t see the same before with search.”

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