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The Best TikTok Paid Ads Guide for Beginners

Our TikTok Paids Ads Agency team has decided to release a TikTok ads guide for beginners looking to master TikTok ads.

TikTok Paid Ads Guide for Beginners


TikTok is still a young social platform, yet it has taken off dramatically over the last few years. It is now one of the most popular platforms, particularly beloved by Generation Z and millennials. TikTok recently surpassed the 1 billion user mark, making it only the fifth platform (and the only one not owned by Facebook/Meta) to do so. However, it wasn’t until early 2021 that TikTok introduced paid ads to the mainstream, with influencer marketing being the only viable way to market on the platform until that stage. However, the developers of TikTok clearly learned from the success of Facebook paid ads and quickly introduced their version. As a result, TikTok paid ads are now a real option for businesses targeting TikTok’s typical youthful audience.

If you limit your audience to only those aged 18 or older, TikTok now has a potential ad reach of 884.9 million, 15.9% of the world’s 18+ population and 17.9% of total internet users. And when you remember that TikTok is no longer available in India, these figures are incredible for such a young app. TikTok paid ads will be particularly suitable if your product has an appeal to young females, as 57% of TikTok’s users are female, compared to 43% male. Regardless, TikTok is an ideal platform for brands targeting people of all genders.

Generation Z - typical market for TikTok paid advertising

What are TikTok Paid Ads?

Brands have a selection of paid ad types on TikTok, so you can select the best for your target audience and budget. Like most social networks with a social advertising programme, TikTok has a set of rules they require advertisers to follow. These include their Terms of Service and Community Guidelines, along with policies on Ad Creatives & Landing Pages. If all that sounds too confusing and time-consuming, then our team at House of Marketers can walk you through the requirements and help you to avoid breaking any of the TikTok rules.

TikTok provides you with the TikTok Ads Manager for managing your paid ads on the platform – very similar to Facebook’s ads manager platform. You can use it to create your ads, manage your ads, and discover insights about your ads’ performance.

The main types of TikTok paid ads are:

1.)  In-Feed Ads

As the name suggests, these ads appear in TikTok viewers’ feeds (on their For You page) in a full-screen and sound-on environment. You create these using the TikTok Ad Manager or contract an agency, such as House of Marketers, to develop them for you. Of course, being TikTok, these have to be videos ads, although TikTok allows you to make image ads for TikTok’s News Feed apps (BuzzVideo, TopBuzz, and Babe). You can also create carousel ads for these apps, but not TikTok itself.

Video in-feed ads appear as a 5-60 second full-screen video in a user’s For You feed. Your ad can include the video, an ad display image, brand or app name, and ad text.

Nielsen CPG Media Mix Model Meta Analysis commissioned by Tik Tok showed in-feed video as the most efficient performer in marketing mix Models.

2.) TopView Ads

If you book a TopView ad, your ad appears full screen for 5 to 60 seconds when users open their TikTok app. As a result, it gives massive visibility to an advertiser, although you need to ensure that your ad doesn’t annoy those TikTok users who have to view it. TikTok describes TopView ads as being TikTok’s biggest billboard.

These ads require that you (or your agency) work with a TikTok sales representative and are not self-service.

TikTok claims that 71% of users say TopView grabs their attention and that they rank #1 in the engagement index

3.) Branded Hashtag Challenge Ads

Branded Hashtag Challenge Ads also require you or your agency to deal with a TikTok sales representative rather than using the self-service platform. These ads utilize TikTok’s popular Hashtag Challenge format. You set a challenge and advertise over three to six days to keep the momentum going. Viewers who accept your challenge will create user-generated content (UGC) that shows on your Hashtag Challenge page.

According to TikTok, Branded Hashtag Challenges have a median engagement rate of 17.5%.

4.) Branded Effects Ads

With Branded Effects ads, you create branded games, stickers, filters, and special effects, that viewers can use to interact with your brand.

5.) Spark Ads

You use Spark Ads to boost organic content from either your account or a creator’s/influencer’s account. At House of Marketers, we often do this for our clients – we do this by receiving a video code directly from the creator we’re working with.

The ads that require you to work with a TikTok sales rep (TopView, Branded Hashtag Challenge, and Branded Effects) can be costly, so be prepared to budget up to £77,000 or more for a campaign. On the other hand, In-feed and Spark ads are generally much cheaper and manageable for even small businesses.

Making a TikTok paid ad

TikTok Promote

TikTok also offers Promote as a way for you to get more people to discover your videos, guide more people to your website, and improve your chances to gain followers. If you Promote a video, it displays like an ad. However, it is only a tool to make your videos more visible – it is still up to you to create videos that people want to watch.

Differences Between TikTok Paid Ads and Facebook Ads / Instagram Ads

The most apparent difference between TikTok paid ads and other social ad platforms, relates to the core of TikTok itself. Although you can have video ads on Facebook or Instagram, most advertisers choose images (although videos are growing in favour there, partially because of the success of TikTok video ads). Also, Facebook and Instagram ads play silently unless a viewer unmutes them, whereas sound is an essential component of virtually all content on TikTok. This very feature has allowed TikTok to become the most engaged social media platform with an average 18% engagement rate. Here’s a list of 46 video content marketing stats you should be aware of.

Working With a TikTok Marketing Agency

While you could set up your TikTok self-service advertising campaigns yourself, you will need to devote considerable time to this. However, if you lack experience with how TikTok operates and what interests TikTok audiences, you might find that all that time is for nothing if audiences shun your ads. Worse, they could miss viewing them because of incorrect ad targeting. This is where a specialist TikTok marketing agency, like House of Marketers, can help make things easier for you and potentially save you from paying for mistargeted ads.

Campaign Setup for TikTok Paid Social Ads

Location-Targeting Limits for TikTok Paid Social Ads

With TikTok ads still being relatively new, you won’t be able to use them in every market, although you will have no problems in the UK. TikTok lists the locations where you can place TikTok ads, depending on your region. In the case of ads placed in the United Kingdom, you can deliver them to TikTok in 28 countries and Pangle video advertising platform in another six (mainly Arab) nations.

You or your TikTok marketing agency will need to go through the following steps when setting up In-feed ads using the TikTok Ad Manager. The process will vary when setting up other types of TikTok ads, as you will work directly with a TikTok sales representative.

Set Objectives for TikTok Paid Ads


As with any ad campaign, you should first set goals/objectives for your TikTok ads campaign. You want to tie down precisely what you are attempting to achieve with this campaign. You can select from one of the following ad objectives (in three categories):

TikTok Ads for Awareness

  • Reach

TikTok Ads for Consideration

  • Traffic
  • App Installs
  • Video Views
  • Lead Generation

TikTok Ads for Conversions

  • Conversions (e.g., purchases on your site or subscriptions)
  • Catalogue sales

TikTok Advertising Objective

Selecting your Budget

At the next stage, TikTok will ask you for a campaign name and a budget, i.e. how much you are willing to spend on your TikTok paid ads in this campaign. If you’re uncertain about how much you want to spend now, you can adjust this amount later.

You need to select one of three options for your campaign budget:

  1. No limit – you set no campaign budget limit, and your budget for your ad groups will determine your spending
  2. Daily budget – you set a maximum level of ad spend for a day
  3. Lifetime budget – you set a maximum overall budget for your campaign

Create Your Ad Groups

What is an ad group?

Ad groups are the place where you select the audience you are targeting (demographics, interests and behaviours), the app store you’re targeting (if it’s an app installs campaign), your budget scheduling, as well as your bidding and optimization goals.

You might feel you only need one Ad Group (or even a single video ad for a small TikTok campaign), but you can create up to 999 Ad Groups if you need. Each Ad Group will contain a combination of videos that you wish to share with the same audience. You can test particular videos with multiple Ad Groups to see which ad groups convert best.

Decide Whether to Use Automated Creative Optimization

One of the options with TikTok paid social ads is Automated Creative Optimization. If you select this, TikTok automatically generates combinations of your images, videos, and ad text and then use the best-performing ones.

TikTok Ad Targeting Options

female and male

Once you know WHY you intend to create a campaign involving TikTok social ads and how much you are willing to spend, you should turn your attention to WHO. Who are you hoping to target with your ads?

As we saw above, TikTok is particularly popular with young women, although many young men also spend time on the platform. TikTok has most users (aged 18+) in the USA (130,962,500), followed by Indonesia (92,069,500). However, in percentage terms, TikTok advertising reach is highest in Saudi Arabia (87.8%), U.A.E. (81.3%), and Thailand (63.6%). TikTok has a much more male-dominated audience than elsewhere if you’re targeting the Arabian market.

TikTok’s UK audience demographics are like those of their US counterparts. The TikTok advertising reach in the UK (18+) is 21,811,500 (40.4% of the UK 18+ population). UK users spend much more time using TikTok on their apps than in many countries, averaging 27.3 hours per month.

TikTok lets you set audiences based on:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Language
  • Interests
  • Behaviours
  • Device details

What is a TikTok Custom Audiences

TikTok Custom Audiences are an ad targeting option that allows you, as an advertiser to identify consumers that are already engaged with your business.

The custom audience feature is a very powerful tool, because it enables you to reinforce a communication with an very specifically-targeted audience that you know is engaged – allowing you to optimise your budget more effectively.

Please note that the minimum audience size of 1,000 is required to target Custom Audiences in an ad group.

With custom audiences you can do the following:

  • Reach current customers
  • Target users who have engaged with your ads, website or app
  • Create a similar or “lookalike” audiences
  • Exclude audiences

However, before creating your custom audiences you need to first setup your pixel, or TikTok won’t be able to track visitors on your website.

What is the TikTok Pixel?

The TikTok Pixel is a piece of code you place on your website. It collects information when people visit your site, which you share with TikTok. You create your TikTok Pixel in TikTok Events Manager. To build an audience based on website traffic, you will first have to set up the TikTok Pixel. Then, you can use it to track website visitor actions, like ‘view page’ or ‘purchase’.

Creating your custom audiences

Create custom audiences on TikTok

You can create a custom audience for your ads. This lets you find people who already know or have engaged with your business and retarget them. You can create your custom audience based on the following:

  • Customer File – upload a customer file to create a Custom Audience based on them
  • Engagement – create an audience from users who have already engaged with TikTok ad content
  • App Activity – create an audience of users who have completed certain events within your app
  • Lead Generation – create an audience from users who have previously engaged with your Lead Ads
  • Website Traffic – create an audience of users who have visited or taken a specific action on your website

What is a lookalike audience?

You can also set up lookalike audiences. Lookalike Audience can help you find audience groups that share similar demographics, interests and behaviours as your existing customers. It could help you find audiences that are interested in your product and expand your audience range. You can create lookalike audiences based on your custom audiences. We suggest that you only make lookalikes of your current customers. But remember, you need 1000 people in a custom audience to make your lookalike audiences.


Set Budgets and Ad Schedules for Each Ad Group

While you may have set an overall budget for your campaign earlier in setting up your TikTok paid ads, you still need to set a budget for each Ad Group, so TikTok understands how to distribute your funds between your Ad Groups. Again, you have the option of selecting a daily or a lifetime budget.

You also need to set a start and end date for ads to play in each Ad Group. If you want to be more granular, you can select Dayparting, which allows you to set ads to play at your preferred times of the day (in your account’s time zone).

Bidding Methods

TikTok offers a variety of bidding methods, depending on your overall strategy and objectives. You can select from one of the following when making your bids:

  • Cost per Mille/Thousand Impressions (CPM), i.e., what you are willing to pay for 1000 impressions
  • Optimized Cost per Mille/Thousand Impressions (oCPM), i.e., what you are willing to pay to create one thousand impressions, targeting users that are likely to complete a conversion event. This is now the default bidding method for the Conversions and App Installs advertising objectives
  • Cost per Thousand Views (CPV), i.e., what you are willing to pay for per one thousand 6-second or 2-second video views.
  • Cost per Click (CPC), i.e., the amount you are willing to pay per click.

Setting Bidding Strategy and Optimizing your TikTok Paid Ads

As mentioned above, TikTok paid ads function very much like those on Facebook and Instagram. You bid to have your ad presented to your target audience ahead of others, including potentially your competition. The actual bidding process goes on behind the scenes, so you don’t have to micromanage your bidding. However, you will want to set up your bidding process to optimize things and ensure that you have the best chance of placing your ads how you want them.

You begin by setting an Optimization Goal (conversion, clicks, or reach) and then choosing a Bid Strategy from:

  • Bid Cap – this helps keep the average cost per result below your bid threshold. You enter a maximum cost per result you are willing to bid. This can help if your advertising objective is Traffic, Reach, Video Views, App Install, or Conversions.
  • Cost Cap – this gives an average cost per result that TikTok’s system tries to achieve. Sometimes, the cost per result will fluctuate higher or lower than the bid amount. This can help if your advertising objective is App Install, Conversions, or Lead Generation
  • Lowest Cost – this doesn’t require a bid. Instead, TikTok’s system uses your available Ad Group budget to generate as many results as possible at the lowest cost per result.

TikTok bidding strategy

Choose a Delivery Type

When setting your bidding strategy, you can choose between “standard” or “accelerated” delivery types.

With standard delivery, you spend your budget as evenly as possible over the length of your campaign. This spreads your budget out based on the distribution of traffic within the selected delivery period.

Accelerated delivery, however, spends your budget at the best times to give the highest exposure of your ads to your target audience as quickly as possible.

Your Creative Content for TikTok Paid Ads

An essential part of any TikTok paid ads campaign is the creation of the ads. The first rule to successful advertising on TikTok is to ensure that your ads don’t particularly look like ads. You can’t, for instance, expect to get away with merely reusing your television ads on TikTok. TikTok’s Generation Z audience is notorious for switching off anything that resembles a traditional ad.

As part of your TikTok ad setup process, you created one or more Ad Groups. You can place up to 20 ads within an Ad Group.

If you’re advertising on other apps in TikTok’s family, you might wish to create some image ads. Otherwise, you will need to create video ads or select existing content when using Spark Ads.

You, or your agency, will need to upload your ads using TikTok Ads Manager and ensure that you place them in the appropriate Ad Groups.

You will also need to upload a thumbnail, relevant text, and a link.

Be aware that TikTok goes through a review process with all ads before accepting them. Also, if you’re using someone else’s posts for a Spark Ad, you will first have to contact the creator of those posts to gain an access code.

Working With TikTok Creators

Of course, you might find it easier to partner with an expert who knows your target audience well to create content for your campaign. House of Marketers can find many high-quality TikTok creators who have audiences that match your target demographics. You can combine content from some of the best influencers in your niche with the power of TikTok paid ads to create videos that interest precisely the right people for your campaign. Learn more about our TikTok influencer campaign processes here.

Evaluating Performance and Moving Forward

You will find a dashboard summarizing the status of your campaign in your TikTok Ad Manager. Review the performance of your ads regularly, taking note of metrics relating to the current status of your campaigns, your CPA, CPM, oCPM, CPV, CPC, conversions, current ad spend, and more. You will find additional information relating to specific campaigns in your Campaign tab.

How House of Marketers Can Help You with Your TikTok Paid Ads

We have described how to use TikTok’s self-service platform to set up your TikTok in-feed ads. However, it can be confusing and time-consuming, particularly if you don’t have a large marketing team. House of Marketers is a TikTok paid ads agency built by past TikTok employees and TikTok partners who can do all the hard work for you. Our TikTok Ads agency offers fully managed TikTok ads services, doing everything from bespoke content creation to regular ads management. We execute TikTok ads campaigns that your customers will enjoy and want to engage with.

We keep you involved in the process every step of the way, providing you with in-depth reports and data analysis every week. Then, at the end of each month, we put together a report looking at what worked, what needs improvement, and any necessary expansions.

17 Best Brands on TikTok

Inspire your  TikTok content strategy. See the 17 of the best brands on TikTok, here.


TikTok Paid Ads May be Ideal for Your Business

If your target market matches the types of people who love TikTok, then there is a good chance that TikTok paid ads could be ideal for your business. This is particularly the case if you target Generations Z, Alpha, or Millennials.

However, while TikTok in-feed social ads may share some similarities with Facebook and Instagram ads, particularly with bidding, targeting, and setting up your campaign, they are very different from traditional ads. This is mainly because the younger generations so besotted with TikTok are highly cynical about anything that resembles a conventional ad. Therefore, you need to create video ads that will gain their attention and keep it long enough for them to view your ads in their entirety.

You may find it beneficial to partner with influencers as long as their followers match your preferred audience. They understand the types of videos their followers love and can make content for you that will attract the attention of the “right” people.

Whatever method you choose, be prepared to adapt. Check the performance of your ads, and be ready to change them if necessary, focusing on those ads that perform best.


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