In our New Media working group, we often discuss high level themes around how New Media channels will affect the marketing world, which opportunities are created and I feel privileged to be able to do a lot of future-gazing with very senior members of our industry. We define New Media as new, emerging channels and technologies available to consumers and our working group’s focus is on bringing the hype down to reality.

So, given the opportunity to suggest a discussion topic for the working group, I wanted to focus on one of the most hyped up social media platforms that has been making waves: TikTok. By discussing whether TikTok is simply another social media fad or whether it has staying power, the goal was to identify what aspects give social media platforms true staying power.


Put simply, TikTok is a short-form video platform for user-generated content. It’s users record themselves lip syncing to videos or recording their own. Browsing the platform, users are recommended videos based on their location and on interest topics, organised under hashtags. 

It’s regional user-base is quite significant: in Southeast Asia, 190 Million users were on the platform in 2018 according to data from Sensor Tower. The platform attracts a very young audience, with 41% of its user-base in the 16-24 years age bracket

So, with wide reach, light-hearted content and high user engagement from Gen Z, this would seem like a platform ripe for investment from brands. And there are guides available for brands and marketers on how to leverage the platform for advertising.


Adoption by a young userbase can also lead to negative associations and unfortunately in TikTok’s case, it has in the past led to attracting the wrong type of attention. There are serious concerns and questions around how ‘safe’ it is as a platform as young children are able to broadcast video of themselves publicly, which has attracted pedophiles to the platform. 

After all, how are children expected to understand the implications of posting videos online – videos that may never be able to be erased in future?


So with those points in mind, we discussed how likely it is for TikTok to become part of the daily media mix of consumers in our region. The overwhelming feeling of the group was that TikTok has too many question marks around brand safety and image for most mainstream brands to feel comfortable using it as a marketing platform. 

On its own, it mostly represents a platform for low-brow, banal humour, which is very specific to a younger generation. The App’s developers currently seem to be focused mostly on scaling the product and growing their user-base, rather than developing social utility or other positive use cases for it.

What, then, makes for a successful app that people want to keep around? Our working group identified three key areas where TikTok falls short that have spurred on the success of other platforms:

  1. The reliability and consistency of content, especially where user-generated content is involved. Brands need to be able to identify and understand what content is being posted on the platform to be able to make informed decisions on whether it is suitable to their brand.
  2. There needs to be a genuine social utility beyond the core offering of the platform; the market for entertainment is already quite saturated, and TikTok has to compete with far larger platforms like YouTube – where TikTok video compilations are also often uploaded.
  3. Apps and platforms need to have a certain sense of community and momentum. Users need to feel like they have to install an app or create an account because all of their peers are on it. 

It should be noted, as a closing thought, that these are the combined opinions of experts in our industry, but with the youngest participants being well in their late 20’s. Perhaps platforms like TikTok might rewrite the rules, as it’s consistent growth shows no signs of slowing.

This article was written by IAB SEA+India New Media Working Group.