HomeBlog for TikTok Industry InsightsTikTok strategy guides and tipsThe Importance of TikTok Ad Hooks (The First 3 Seconds)

The Importance of TikTok Ad Hooks (The First 3 Seconds)

TikTok Ad Hooks

TikTok Ad Hooks that Demand Audience Attention

TikTok’s Gen Z audiences and most of TikTok’s millennial audiences often lack patience, particularly when it comes to advertising. If you don’t gain their attention in the first three seconds for your ads, you’ve lost them. So for your campaigns to succeed, you need to craft captivating TikTok ad hooks to gain your viewers’ attention in those crucial three seconds before they swipe onto somebody else’s video.

As reported in 47 Important TikTok User Stats and TikTok Statistics for 2022, 63% of all successful ads on TikTok have their main campaign message clearly presented in the first three seconds of their video. Furthermore, according to TikTok for Business, over 63% of those videos with the highest click-through rate (CTR) highlight their key message or product within the first three seconds. TikTok does deliver a warning, however. Although you should get straight to the point with your TikTok ads, this can’t be at the expense of the story you tell. By all means, have TikTok ad hooks near the start of your tales, but your videos must depict an overall narrative.

What is an Ad Hook?

An ad hook is a short, informative and engaging, or even entertaining communication that marketers use at the start of their brand’s adverts, in the pursuit of quickly capturing their audiences attention. You can present your ad hooks both in a visual and audio forms. That’s right… You don’t even need words to convey your brand’s communication in an ad hook.

45% of people who watch the first three seconds of a video will continue watching it for at least another 30 seconds. These findings from Facebook demonstrate just how important the first 3 seconds of an advert are, in capturing your audience’s attention. Keeping them engaged in that first 3 seconds really can drastically improve your ad campaign conversion rates.

Effective ad hooks are able to speak to your audiences needs, desires and emotions. They often also involve relatable situations and easily consumed information. Keep them simple. Keep them clear.
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The Importance of the First 3 Seconds to Attention Spans

Stopwatch for TikTok ad hooks

A few years ago, the journalistic media company, Time claimed that “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish”. Time based their statement on a Microsoft 2015 study, claiming that the average human attention span had dropped to eight seconds, down from twelve in 2000. In comparison, goldfish have an attention span of nine seconds. However, you made it this far in the article, so this may not apply to you!

While scaremongers initially blamed this four-second loss on the internet, more recent studies indicate that humans have been a “cognitively distracted species” for some time and only tend to focus on one thing in quarter-of-a-second blocks. Scientists view this as evolutionary adaptation. One of humankind’s great strengths is its ability to flick between highly focused and diffuse attention. This enables us to concentrate on a complex task while remaining aware of our surroundings. By doing so, humans have survived threats through the ages that may have sneaked up on us if we stayed intently focused on one task.

Researchers at Princeton University and the University of California-Berkeley have likened our brain to being “like a theatre with a spotlight and house-lights, and it cycles between spotlight mode (attention focused on a single point on the stage), and house-light mode (attention is diffused over the audience).”

While the Microsoft study suggests that people have eight-second attention spans, that doesn’t mean that you can expect viewers to have that much patience when watching your TikTok ads. That 8-second figure is an average, covering people of all age groups. TikTok’s users are typically younger. 25% of TikTok’s active users’ accounts in the U.S. are people aged 10-19, with a further 22.4% aged 20-29. They are predominantly Generation Z and Millennials (with an increasing percentage of Generation Alpha each year). And these age groups have little time for ads. You have much less time to hook these people than the typical social media user or even a goldfish.

Placement Means Everything on TikTok

TikTok ads are full-screen and successful ones look just like any other TikTok video. They come across as natural and feel like they belong on the platform. Topview ads attract viewers’ attention as soon as they open the app. TikTok guaranteed millions of views within a 24-hour period.

Even more traditional in-feed ads can catch users’ attention. These are 5-60 second, full-screen vertical videos, again played with sound-on. You place them in your target audience’s ‘For You’ feeds, and they fit seamlessly alongside user-generated content. You can even improve their visibility by opting for an In-Feed One Day Max ad spot, which ensures yours will be the first ad users see, typically placed after the first three organic TikTok videos in a user’s ‘For You’ feed.

How Successful Brands Approach the First 3 Seconds of Their TikTok Content

Unlike Facebook, every video begins with audio on. Sound plays a significant role in the success of videos on TikTok. And unlike some social apps, TikTok ads use a sound-on format. As a result, TikTok’s users enjoy their audio and expect exciting music and other sounds backing all their videos. You can include a combination of music, audio effects, voice-overs, and other reactions in your videos.

Most TikTok users don’t consider the platform to be a passive experience. If a video attracts their attention (in those crucial first three seconds), it will drag them in. TikTok’s sound-on format amplifies its users’ connection and ensures maximum engagement.

Milk Bar Store’s TikTok Content Approach

Milk Bar chose to start its video with a question – “Have you ever been in love?” If you look closely, however, you will see a different question placed on screen; however, “Have you ever been best friends with a dessert person?” They then proceed to play romantic music and feature mouth-watering visuals of desserts.


Tag your dessert bestie #desserttiktok #fyp #dessert #foodtiktok #foodies

♬ cute sound – brett

Firestone’s TikTok Ad Strategy

Although most people connect the name Firestone with tyres, they have also brought people together through music since 1928. They have set up a stage at festivals across Europe in recent years.  Firestone set up Lead Generation Ads in the U.K. and Spain to run a competition, offering the chance to win a pair of tickets to a music festival in each country.

They began their U.K. TikTok ad with a simple red screen, apart from the Firestone logo, a music wave pulsating to an electric guitar chord, the heading “Do you still recognise this?” and a Call to Action, “Tap to win 2 tickets to All Points East”. The ad then made it more apparent what the sound was and changed the heading to “Ready for More Live Sounds?” This clearly struck a chord with its audience. The campaign has more than 38 million impressions, and 1,500 people entered their contact details for the competition.

Manchester United’s TikTok Content Engagement Strategy

As we previously discussed, Manchester United recently discovered that TikTok provides an excellent way to connect with their fanbase. They captioned one of their recent posts, “Feeling fresh”. This video attracts Manchester United fans, emphasising popular players and the club’s current Adidas-supplied kit. The video begins with Edinson Cavani sitting in his new kit, highlighting the Manchester United logo. A catchy original sound plays in the background, pulling you in. This video only lasts ten seconds, but it focuses on five players in the new training kit.


Feeling fresh 👕🔥 #UnitedOnTikTok #MUFC #ManUtd #teamgeist #adidasfootball

♬ –

The Adidas TikTok Strategy

It’s not just with their Manchester United kit that Adidas know how to make an impression on TikTok, however. One of their Christmas TikTok ads came in at a comparatively-long 44 seconds video that depicts an engaging story. As with many TikTok videos, it features catchy music in the background. However, it is the snappy film editing that gains your attention this time. The video shows crucial moments when telling the story.

It begins with a man called Jeff (wearing a strategically placed Adidas-branded cap) sitting in a chair in front of a Christmas tree, with stockings hanging on the wall. Instantly, somebody off-camera throws a shoebox at him. By the end of three seconds, he has the shoes on his feet and is, in turn, wrapping a small shoebox for “Mr Squirrel”. This draws viewers into the story and makes them wonder what is going to happen next. A puppet called ‘Mr Squirrel’ ends up wearing the newly gifted sneakers and he goes on to conduct multiple activities, including playing basketball and riding on a chairlift at a ski field.

As demonstrated by Adidas, an entertaining ad hook and unique story can really be effective in capturing your audience’s attention and driving brand engagement.
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4 Useful TikTok Ad Hooks to Capture Audience Attention

Obviously, each audience is different, and what appeals to one may go flat with another. Therefore, you should be willing to experiment to see what resonates with the viewers you are targeting. However, first, you could try incorporating some of the following TikTok ad hooks and marketing techniques into your TikTok videos.

1. Tell People What Your Video’s About

Remember, you only have three seconds for ads to attract viewers’ attention to your TikTok ad. So you either have to tell your core message in that time, or you have to find another method to attract their attention and gradually deliver your message.

Often brands do it with an opening line like, “Want to eat the best ethically produced Vegan food?” or “How do you pick the best lipstick for your colouring?” If you tie the question in with attractive imagery, it can pique the interest of your viewers. It’s a smart way of explaining what the advert’s, without explaining it.

Of course, you need to ensure that you answer any question you pose. You don’t want people to accuse you of clickbait to gain viewers’ eyes.

2. Include Up-tempo Music in Your Video

More than half of all successful videos include music as the backing sound in the first three seconds. It’s a way for you to attract viewers who might otherwise not have an interest in your TikTok ad. Catch them with the sounds, and you could well keep them for the entire video.

3. Begin by Depicting Some Emotion


People immediately take notice of emotion. While many brands begin by focusing on pain points before moving on to how their product can resolve the problem, happiness is a more successful emotion in TikTok videos. Indeed, 58% of viral TikTok videos trigger happiness, according to a SEMrush study. The next most common emotion used as a TikTok ad hook to trigger audiences is surprise / shock.

Note, however, that “bad” emotions don’t play well on TikTok. SEMrush found that only 9% of viral videos depict anger, 4% sadness, 3% fear, and less than 1% embarrassment. So clearly, it’s better to start your video with happiness and humour rather than doom and gloom.

It is also worth noting that SEMrush found that 36.5% of all viral TikTok videos include humour, much more than the 21.9% featuring TikTok dance moves.

4. Consider Working with Animals

SEMrush also found that 60% of viral videos featured one person visible on screen, with 51% depicting a person alone speaking directly to the camera. However, one in four viral videos featured at least one animal. Of these, 46% showed dogs, and 28% featured cats.

Don’t Ignore Those Crucial First 3 Seconds for TikTok Ad Hooks

TikTok is very different from more traditional video platforms such as YouTube. The level of engagement on TikTok is phenomenal. So when you do capture your audiences attention, the results are by far more impressive. Our team at House of Marketers chose to focus our marketing campaigns on the TikTok platform because of this reason. Despite this, TikTok ad hooks are crucial in the first three seconds of ads.

To know more about how we can collaborate with you for your custom tiktok strategy.

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TikTok is the new frontier of social media marketing that you can leverage to push your brand to greater heights. You just have to be prepared to adapt to meet the sometimes picky needs of your target audience. It’s incredibly important to use robust and performance-based creatives that get people talking and taking your desired actions. But, most importantly, you need to know how to push viewers past those crucial first three seconds so that they are still watching by the video’s conclusion.

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