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Tiktok ads formats and types explained

Laiba Tariq

Updated: January 7, 2024

27 min read


TikTok ad formats

TikTok is the app to be. After reaching over 3 billion downloads in 2023, marketers and brands are recognizing the chokehold that TikTok has over every other social media platform when it comes to advertisements. 

And so, TikTok ads are where you should be zooming in!

Over the course of years, TikTok has developed an extensive range of advertisement types for brands to choose from. These ads target demographics differently as some of them are unskippable full-screen traditional commercials while others foster a sense of community to build their images.

If I’ve got you hooked so far, let’s talk about why you should even be considering the app for your advertisement needs in the first place.

Why advertise on TikTok?

Before 2016, nobody knew what a TikTok was. But today, TikTok is the #1 platform marketers and brands use as a way to promote their products or services. 

From names like Jennifer Lopez and Charli D’Amelio to companies like Tesla and Sephora, every successful brand is heavily advertising itself and going viral on TikTok. 

The reason is simple: TikTok is the best platform to promote your brand for more reasons than one. 

In Q1 of 2022, Tiktok became the most downloaded app globally and even surpassed Google as the most popular web domain! By Q3 of the same year, it became the world’s highest-grossing app and currently has 1.2 billion active users. But how did it do that? 

Contrary to popular belief, TikTok caters to a wide range of demographics. It’s not the app for teenagers anymore; it’s where your target demographic is! And they’re actively spending an hour every day on the app, making it the perfect app to launch your campaigns into.

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I’m not done with the statistics just yet. TikTok also has the highest engagement rates when compared to other social media sites. While Instagram’s average engagement is approximately 3%, TikTok stands as a winner with an engagement rate of 8.2%!

When it comes to actual advertisement, you can implement more effective video marketing on the platform to a plethora of audiences (20% of the global population). 

You can showcase your products authentically on TikTok to an audience that’s already engaged and active! This can mean increased brand exposure while staying ahead of the social media marketing curve.

Last but not least, TikTok offers a variety of ad formats, such as In-Feed Ads, Branded Hashtag Challenges, and Branded Effects. These formats provide creative freedom and allow brands to craft engaging and memorable advertising experiences!

Ready to know more about these different ad formats that make TikTok the perfect app to start? 

The 8 TikTok Ad Formats Explained

When it comes to advertising and spreading brand awareness, TikTok’s ad group range really serves marketers well. Not only are you free to choose a creative strategy that fits your campaign objectives, but each type within these ad groups targets users differently!

That said, let’s jump into the 8 types of TikTok ad formats!

1. TikTok in-feed ads

In feed ads on TikTok are a form of native advertising that seamlessly integrates promotional content into a user’s feed, making them appear as regular TikTok videos. 

These ads typically show up in a user’s “For You” feed, sandwiched between organic user-generated content, and are designed to be engaging and visually appealing. 

In-feed ads can vary in format, including short videos, image slideshows, or GIFs, and usually feature a recognizable “Sponsored” label to denote their commercial nature. Not sure if this TikTok ad format is meant for you? Here are some pros and cons of using in-feed ads:

Feels like native contentHigh competition with other videos for TikTok user attention
Has clickable features
CTA buttons can take users to internal and external landing pages

The latest example of successful in-feed ads on TikTok is Maybelline’s Superstay Vinyl Ink. The in-feed ads led to a +95% glance views on Amazon and a whopping 55 million impressions within 24 hours!

Specs for in-feed ads

  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (recommended)
  • Resolution: must be ≥540*960px, ≥640*640px, or ≥960*540px.
  • Length: up to 60s (recommended 9-15s)
  • File Options: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • File Sizes: less than 500 MB

2. TikTok brand takeover ads

You might’ve come across a brand takeover ad campaign when you open the TikTok app and come across an unskippable full-screen ad on your FYP.

This TikTok ad type takes over your screen for a few seconds and turns into one of the in-feed video ads. They can come across as GIFs, static images, and videos. But, TikTok only shows 1 brand takeover ad per day to its users. 

But these full-screen ads provide an immersive experience, driving sales and impressions within a short time. Plus, you can always create and add your own custom logo to create lasting brand awareness!

Guarantees a high number of impressionsCan be identified as an ad
Can not be skippedUnable to like or comment

Specs for brand takeover ads

  • Aspect Ratios: 9:16, 1:1, or 16:9
  • Length: 5 seconds
  • File Options for Video: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • File Types for Static Images: JPG or PNG.
  • File Size: 500 MB

3. TikTok TopView ads

Want to take your advertising game with an ad format that is 67% more effective than any other type of TikTok ad? 

The biggest example of a successful ad strategy using topView ads is eOne’s campaign for the movie Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves. It resulted in over 50 million impressions and a cost per view of $0.02!

These video-first format ads have a duration of 60 seconds and make an immediate appearance upon launching the TikTok app. 

What sets these ads apart is their distinctive nature: they occupy the entire screen and play automatically with sound. 

Plus, advertisers have the option to include a call-to-action button within the ad itself! Talk about being a “must-see” ad…

If your aim is to deliver ads that seamlessly blend into the TikTok experience, TopView ads might not be your top choice. Because they interrupt the user experience with their length and full-screen feel, they’re quite similar to traditional commercials!

However, despite their more traditional feel, TopView ads can be remarkably effective. An impressive 71% of TikTokers acknowledge that TopView ads successfully capture their attention!

Immersive experience cuts out competitionCan easily be identified as an ad
Receives a higher number of impressions
Works nicely for brand awareness

Specs for TopView ads

  • Aspect Ratio: 9:16, 1:1, or 16:9
  • Resolution: must be ≥ 540*960px, ≥ 640*640px, or ≥ 960*540px.
  • Length: up to 60 seconds
  • File Types: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • File Size:  ≤ 500 MB

4. TikTok branded effects

Are you a fan of trendy filters, stickers, and effects? Well, you might already be familiar with what branded effects ads are! 

Cheetos launched itself in Egypt recently and chose TikTok as the platform to advertise. Users were encouraged to show off their zigzag dance to original music and a Cheetos background. Garnering over 92 million video views and a 13.3% brand awareness increase, the company ran a colorful branded effect for 4 weeks to target the Gen Z community! 

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Similar to Instagram and Snapchat, TikTok’s branded Effects empower brands to craft shareable stickers, filters, and special effects as a way to self-promote! 

While it’s certainly not strong enough to be your sole advertising aspect on the app, it does boost your visibility on the app and gives you the chance to go viral. So how does it work?

Filters and effects on TikTok are often designed to be flashy and loud, grabbing the attention of most TikTok users and drumming up the engagement of your filters! 

Here are the pros and cons of using this TikTok ad format as your marketing choice:

Improve brand awarenessRequires influencers to gain traction
Liked by the younger demographic more
Collaborates well with the hashtag challenges
Leads to higher engagement

Specs for branded effects

  • Pixel Size: 144 x 144px
  • File Options: PNG
  • Export size: 162 x 162px
  • ​File size: less than 60 KB

5. TikTok branded hashtag challenge

Heavily relying upon user-generated content (UGC), the branded hashtag challenge is a sneaky way to promote your brand on TikTok. This one’s less of an ad and more of a campaigning strategy to improve brand awareness by encouraging user participation!

With the branded hashtag challenge, your brand will encourage users to dance, lip-sync, or create their own renditions. When they post their videos on the TikTok app, they’ll add the branded hashtag in the caption! 

Branded hashtag challenge is often featured at the top of TikTok’s FYP and leads to 8.5% greater engagement than other types of ads

Here are some of the most successful branded hashtag challenges:

  • Guess’ #InMyDenim – resulted in +5,500 user-generated videos and 10 million views.
  • Colgate’s #MakeMomSmile – reached +4.6 billion views
  • Nissan’s #improvisewithJUKE – garnered +129 million video views
Popularity can mean high user engagementRelies heavily on user-generated content
Comes across as organic content
Can go viral and improve brand awareness

Specs for branded hashtags

  • Aspect Ratio: 9:16
  • Resolution: must be ≥540*960px, ≥640*640px, or ≥960*540px.
  • Length: up to 60s (recommended 9-15s)
  • File Options: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, .3gp, or .avi
  • File Sizes: less than 500 MB

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6. Collection Ads

While not yet accessible to all users, TikTok Collection Ads offer a unique advertising format worthy of exploration. These ads are designed to enable users to seamlessly explore and browse products via their mobile devices in full-screen mode. 

The distinct feature of Collection Ads lies in the creation of an ad that directs users to an Instant Gallery Page, a curated and inspiring collection of your products, all accessible without leaving the TikTok app.

Collection ads are designed to deliver a faster, more captivating advertising experience that encourages immediate action from TikTok users!

Offers an engaging and immersive ad experience for usersCan be more expensive than other ad formats
Improves engagement with the swiping optionHigh competition for user attention
Promotes brand value

Specs for collection ads

  • Aspect Ratio: 9:16, 1:1, or 16:9
  • Resolution: must be 720 x 1280px, 640 x 640px, or 1280 x 720px.
  • Length: 5-16s (recommended 10s)
  • File Options: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, or .avi
  • File Sizes: less than 500 MB

7. Dynamic Showcase Ads (DSAs)

Dynamic Showcase Ads enable brands to feature a range of products, often displayed in a carousel or grid format, within a single ad! This is a great ad type to indulge in if your brand is in the e-commerce space.

One of the key features of Dynamic Showcase Ads is the ability to automatically update the showcased products in real-time. This means that advertisers can easily keep their product listings current, reflecting the latest inventory or promotions.

You have creative flexibility in designing the appearance and layout of your Dynamic Showcase Ads. From incorporating eye-catching visuals, and compelling product descriptions, to branding elements to make the ad more appealing to viewers, the sky is the limit!

By showcasing multiple products and providing a seamless shopping experience, Dynamic Showcase Ads can increase user engagement and drive conversions, ultimately leading to increased sales for brands.

Gives you the option to create highly personalized experiencesLimited A/B testing options
Automatically updates with latest productsComplex setup for beginners
Boosts conversions and engagementResource-intensive

Specs for dynamic showcase ads

  • Resolution: 720 x 1280px, 640 x 640px, or 1280 x 720px
  • Length: 5-16s (recommended 10s)
  • File Options: .mp4, .mov, .mpeg, or .avi
  • File Sizes: less than 500 MB

8. Shopping Ads

Shopping ads were recently introduced by TikTok in October 2022 as an improved way for e-commerce brands on the platform to reach their target audience with ease. 

According to TikTok itself, shopping ads are a “simpler, smarter, and more advanced ad solution that helps brands meet shoppers wherever they are in the purchase journey, sparking demand and boosting sales.”

The best news? There are 3 different types of ads within Tiktok’s Shopping Ads!

Can directly drive e-commerce revenueHighly competitive landscape
Access to detailed data on user interactions and conversionsUsers may become desensitized to shopping ads over time
Allows highly creative TikTok ad campaign strategies

Video Shopping Ads

Video shopping ads are strategically placed as hyper-relevant, clickable videos throughout the For You page, enabling new customers to effortlessly explore and purchase products. 

Powered by advanced targeting capabilities, Video Shopping Ads ensure that your products are showcased to users with a higher likelihood of making a purchase. 

With the video feature, TikTok users are quickly attracted to this type of TikTok advertising, which can lead to sales much more efficiently!

Catalog Listing Ads

With Catalog Listing Ads, marketers who don’t want to get into a creative hitch can quickly get started—no additional assets needed! 

These ads allow you to display your products alongside those of other merchants, creating new shopping destinations where users with aligned interests and stronger purchase intent can seamlessly discover and make purchases.

Live Shopping Ads

Live Shopping Ads are purpose-built to drive engagement directly from the For You page to Live Shopping events. They invite users to join the experience and uncover exciting new products through livestreams!

Beyond increasing traffic to LIVE events, these ads, much like other Shopping ad formats, are strategically designed to present your products to potential buyers who are more inclined to make a purchase.

TikTok Ads Manager

TikTok Ads Manager is the official and powerful platform for businesses and advertisers to create, manage, and optimize their advertising campaigns on TikTok. 

This robust tool empowers advertisers to tap into TikTok’s extensive user base, create compelling ad content, and drive meaningful engagement with their target audience.

With TikTok Ads Manager, advertisers have the flexibility to create a variety of ad formats, including video ads, image ads, carousel ads, and more. They can upload their creative assets, craft persuasive ad copy, and tailor the ad format to align with their specific campaign objectives.

One of the standout features of TikTok Ads Manager is its advanced audience targeting capabilities. Advertisers can precisely define their target audience based on demographics, interests, behaviors, and more.

This precise targeting ensures that ads are shown to users who are most likely to resonate with the content and take action.

Budget management is made seamless through TikTok Ads Manager, allowing advertisers to set daily or lifetime spending limits. Real-time insights into ad spend and performance help advertisers monitor their budgets effectively and adjust as needed.

The platform also provides in-depth performance tracking and analytics, offering valuable insights into key metrics such as impressions, clicks, conversions, and return on investment (ROI). 

You can leverage these insights to optimize their campaigns, maximize their reach, and achieve their advertising goals!

TikTok ads pricing

Precisely determining the cost of TikTok Ads can be elusive, as TikTok offers multiple ad types, each with its own pricing range. To grasp the exact costs associated with each ad solution, it’s crucial to understand TikTok’s various ad-buying methods.

Currently, advertisers can acquire TikTok ads using three distinct approaches:

  • Bidding (also known as cost per click or CPC)
  • Booking
  • Reach and frequency

Each of these buying methods aligns with different campaign objectives, depending on your goals when advertising on TikTok. 

Among these options, bidding is the most common, adaptable, and accessible method suitable for businesses of all sizes, whether aiming for sales or branding campaigns.

Bidding Types

TikTok offers five bidding ad types, such as In-Feed, Collection, Dynamic Showcase, TikTok Shopping Solutions, and Deeplink to Marketplace. 

Key features of bidding methods include ease of creation through TikTok Ads Manager, flexible costs with no upfront fees, no need to purchase ad space separately, and suitability for optimizing conversion efficiency.

Booking Types

This approach is available due to limited ad placements. Advertisers interested in specific ad formats like TopView, Branded Effect, and Branded Hashtag Challenge must book in advance to secure their ad slots. 

Booking methods generally involve higher costs compared to bidding types and require advance booking and payment through TikTok agencies like Mega Digital. These exclusive ad solutions are unique to TikTok and are effective for increasing brand awareness.

Reach and Frequency

Reach and Frequency (R&F) provides advertisers with control over target audience reach and ad frequency based on a predetermined budget. R&F comes in two distribution forms: 

  • Standard, and
  • Top Feed. 

The latter is an advanced setting that optimizes the display position for the standard distribution. This form of advertising is often used in conjunction with other ad types to maximize audience reach, interactions, and brand recognition.

What influences TikTok ad prices?

Because there is no set value on how much your TikTok ads can cost you, it can be confusing to figure out your marketing budget. 

As a general rule of thumb, you should keep $500 initially as your advertising costs on TikTok. But there are many brands on the platform that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising too!

Here are 4 factors that impact TikTok ad prices: 

Ad formatsDifferent ad formats, such as video ads or carousel ads, can have varying costs based on user engagement and platform demand.
Target audienceAds targeting a broad audience may have lower costs, but highly specific or niche targeting can increase costs due to limited reach.
Bidding strategyThe choice between automatic and manual bidding can impact costs, as manual bidding allows advertisers to control their bid amounts.
Competition High demand for ad placements within a specific audience segment or at certain times can increase ad costs. More competition often means higher prices.

How to run ads on TikTok

Running TikTok ads can be a powerful way to connect with a vast and engaged audience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to launching an ad campaign on TikTok:

1. Setting up an advertising campaign

Before you start creating your TikTok ads, it’s essential to establish a clear plan for your advertising campaign. 

Start by defining your campaign objectives. Ask yourself what you want to achieve with your ads on TikTok. The most common objectives include:

  • increasing brand awareness, 
  • driving website traffic, 
  • promoting app installs, or 
  • generating leads.

Once you’ve set your objectives, it’s time to consider your target audience. TikTok provides robust targeting options based on factors like demographics, interests, behavior, and location. Carefully define your target audience to ensure your ads reach the right people.

With your objectives and target audience in mind, you can now establish specific campaign goals. These goals should be measurable and aligned with your overall objectives. 

For example, if your objective is to boost website visits, your goal might be to achieve a certain number of clicks within a defined timeframe.

2. Setting up budget and bidding

Determining your ad campaign’s budget is a critical step in the process. TikTok offers two budget options: daily and lifetime. Daily budgets allocate a set amount of money each day, while lifetime budgets allow you to specify a total budget for the entire campaign duration.

Next, you’ll need to choose a bidding strategy. TikTok provides two main options:

Automatic Bidding

With automatic bidding, TikTok will set bids on your behalf to help you achieve your campaign objectives. This option offers simplicity and convenience, as TikTok’s algorithms handle bid adjustments.

Manual Bidding

If you prefer more control over your bids, you can opt for manual bidding. In this case, you specify the maximum bid amount you’re willing to pay for the desired action, such as a click or conversion. Manual bidding allows for fine-tuning and experimentation to optimize your results.

Regardless of your chosen bidding strategy, it’s essential to continuously monitor your campaign’s performance. You can adjust your budget and bids based on the data you collect to optimize your campaign over time.

3. Creating your TikTok ads

Now, let’s focus on the creative aspect of your TikTok ad campaign:

Ad Creatives

TikTok is the king of fast information. And because the platform is known for its short-form videos, consider creating engaging and visually captivating video content. 

Keep your videos concise and attention-grabbing, as TikTok users have short attention spans. Incorporate elements that align with TikTok trends and culture to resonate with the audience.

Uploading Media

Use TikTok’s ad creation platform to upload your media assets. Ensure that your videos or images meet TikTok’s specifications in terms of resolution, aspect ratio, and file format. TikTok provides guidance on these requirements during the ad creation process.

Captions and CTAs

Craft compelling captions that complement your visuals. Your captions should be concise and relevant to your ad’s message. You also should include a clear call to action (CTA) that instructs viewers on what action to take after watching your TikTok ads!

Whether it’s visiting your website, downloading an app, or making a purchase, the CTA should be persuasive and straightforward.

Once your TikTok ad campaign is set up and your creative assets are ready, TikTok will review your campaign to ensure it aligns with its guidelines and policies. Once approved, your ads will begin running, and you can closely monitor their performance through TikTok’s ad manager.

Best practices for TikTok ads

Now that you’ve conquered practically every piece of information on TikTok ad formats, it’s time to learn how you can make the best of your TikTok ad campaign strategies!

So, dear reader, let me hook you to 3 tried-and-tested best practices for TikTok ads:

Always add captions and descriptions

Ad descriptions and captions kill two birds with one stone. It’s an excellent way to support visual and auditory messages to people who have disabilities, as well as those who don’t have their volumes up — guilty as charged! 

But captions and descriptions go beyond that. They also build your story by adding factual bits and expanding on the narrative you’re revealing about your brand! It’s the way to go if you’re looking to connect on a personal level with your target audience.

Balance promotion with entertainment

Balancing entertainment-related content and advertising on TikTok is key to effectively reaching your audience. With entertainment garnering a massive 535 billion hashtag views on the platform, it’s essential to strike the right equilibrium. 

The strategy is to utilize engaging elements to captivate your audience’s attention, and then seamlessly integrate promotional content that gently introduces them to your product or brand.

For newcomers to TikTok, a gradual approach works well. Begin by kick-starting your account with entertainment-focused ads that resonate with the platform’s lively and creative community. 

As users become more familiar with your presence and content, gradually introduce promotional material that offers value. Consider how-to guides and interactive videos that showcase your product’s benefits and unique features.

Partner with creators

If you’re trying to grow your brand and reach a wider range of audiences, micro-influencers, and content creators are crucial elements of your strategy. 

These people already have a well-set rapport in the digital space with a loyal and often large following, which can help you get traction in a new-to-you niche!

This is especially a piece of advice to keep close to heart if you’re dipping your toes into unknown territory. 

To partner up with a content creator on TikTok, you should:

  • Research influencers in your desired space,
  • Analyze their engagement rates against their follower count, 
  • Reach out for a paid partnership to promote your product!

The Wildest is a pet care app that empowers pet parents with easy-to-use resources. They partnered with influencers on the app (see below) and ended up having over 10,000 sign-ups and over 1 million registrations

Final Thoughts

TikTok is the app to be. Whether you’re looking to entertain yourself on your daily commute, gain knowledge, or advertise your products to TikTok users, the app gives you a lot of creative freedom. 

Some might even call it a discovery funnel, where you never run out of new things!

Because it’s where almost 20% of the human population is connecting with each other, TikTok is the ideal platform to launch your advertisement campaigns. TikTok recognizes its importance in social media marketing because it gives you 8 different types of ad formats to choose from!

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