Right as TikTok became the biggest thing to hit social media, it also became the center of controversy. The platform’s bumpy relationship with the Trump administration keeps unfolding, and it’s unclear how this battle will resolve. Meanwhile, brands and their agency partners are left worrying about the marketing dollars they’ve funneled into the platform and what this means for their futures.
The administration initially took issue with the viral video app, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, as part of a larger effort to combat Chinese government influence. ByteDance attempted to make a deal with U.S. company Oracle in response, and the administration reacted by delaying the executive order to ban the app. A federal judge has since ruled to prevent the ban, and the federal government is in the process of appealing that ruling.
TLDR: Essentially, we’re seeing an ugly stalemate between the incredibly popular app and the federal government.
Brands are understandably concerned. The notion that they’ve wasted time and marketing resources pursuing a potentially banned platform is a major concern, but even more disconcerting are the implications of the government’s involvement. If the government can shut down social media platforms, then businesses need to have contingency plans in place and experienced, trustworthy teams to point them in the right direction.
How Should Brands Deal With This Uncertainty?
When agencies bring a media threat like this to their clients’ attention, they should assess and propose alternatives by asking questions about their brand needs. Does this new platform allow for similar scalability and reach? Does it align with their target demographic’s consumption behaviors? Are costs comparable? And do their existing creative assets translate to this new landscape? Based on the answers to these questions, agencies can learn how much time and budgetary investment the brand will need to meet its goals using this platform.
Brands aren’t only looking at ad performance when using and deciding how to use these platforms; they’re also seeking security. When the Facebook data breach leaked in 2018, one of my agency’s largest clients in higher education threatened to remove all media spends — totaling a significant amount of both media budget and an extremely healthy lead-generating medium. It was the first time in my career that a privacy violation of this magnitude directly resulted in such severe concerns, and it likely won’t be the last.
If the TikTok controversy has shown us anything, it’s that the environment in which we conduct business can change overnight … quite literally. Brands have to be ready to adapt if they want to survive. Being nimble and ready to shift ad investments strategically and quickly will define which brands continue and which do not.
Whether we’re talking about a brand’s overall business model, ad creative, offers and promotional strategies, or even the platforms it uses, developing advertising contingency plans shouldn’t just be a dusty earthquake kit stowed away in the attic. These plans should be a built-in part of the business.