Snapchat’s Biggest Advertiser Is… TikTok

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While Snapchat and TikTok compete for the attention of young mobile-first audiences, Snapchat has also been happy to take the upstart streamer’s ad dollars. So much so that, according to the ad sales intelligence company MediaRadar, TikTok is the single biggest advertiser on Snapchat.

The firm’s analysis shows that TikTok’s U.S. ad spend quadrupled between 2018 and 2019, with about 80% of it going to Snapchat. TikTok was Snapchat’s top advertiser in 2019, above brands like Coca-Cola, Comcast, Disney and AT&T. MediaRadar sources its data from its own proprietary algorithm in conjunction with ad agency reporting.

TikTok did not return a request for comment, while Snapchat declined to comment about MediaRadar’s findings.

“The two platforms offer young people different experiences on their phones. And, at the end of the day, they’re competing for the same screen time and advertising dollars,” Todd Krizelman, CEO and founder of MediaRadar, said in a statement. “For now though, it’s clear that TikTok is pouring money into its advertisements on Snapchat. Although some have found it questionable whether this strategy will benefit Snap in the long run, the company currently sees TikTok as a friend.”

The study also found that TikTok ran ads on other social media platforms, namely YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn—but TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, spent much less than they did on Snapchat last year. A spokesperson for MediaRadar clarified that the majority of TikTok’s Facebook and Instagram ad buys were based outside of the United States, in countries including Brazil, Russia and France.

However, the data around TikTok’s ad spend is uncertain, as neither the social platform nor the publisher will comment on the strategy—even MediaRadar, the study’s source, would only give Adweek relative numbers. This fall, Bloomberg reported that TikTok was spending “hundreds of millions of dollars” advertising on Facebook and Instagram, but The Verge later reported the TikTok was scaling back its U.S. ad buys, particularly on Facebook.

“TikTok has gained a bulk of its new users in the U.S. by advertising itself using app install ads on Facebook, but it’s not spending as much as it once did,” The Verge’s Nick Statt reported in November. “The growth of its U.S. user base has slowed dramatically as a result.” 

Ad analytics firm Sensor Tower provided Adweek with current data about TikTok’s share of voice—another metric for measuring the top advertisers on a website or platform—on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Sensor Tower said that TikTok ranked as the No. 1 brand running app install ads on Snap every single month since at least September 2019. This data may support the MediaRadar analysis, though it’s important to remember that this is just for ads that direct you to install a mobile app. 

The Sensor Tower data also shows that TikTok was the No. 1 app install advertiser on Facebook as of February 2019, but dropped to 40th by February 2020, indicating a potential reallocation of funds away from Facebook. Instead, it appears TikTok is moving its ads toward Instagram and Snapchat, which, like TikTok, has a higher percentage of younger users than Facebook, according to data from Sprout Social

Sensor Tower

In recent years, Snapchat has invested in tech and targeting capabilities for app install ads, like the ones TikTok has relied upon. The most pronounced change in the Sensor Tower data was between October and November 2019, when TikTok went from being Facebook’s sixth biggest ad spender for app installs to 59th. In December, it ranked 96th before leveling off to 40th in February. 

On Oct. 17 in a speech at Georgetown University, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticized TikTok for allegedly censoring content related to the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. “While our services like WhatsApp are used by protesters and activists everywhere due to strong encryption and privacy protections, on TikTok, the Chinese app growing quickly around the world, mentions of these protests are censored, even in the U.S,” Zuckerberg said. “Is that the internet we want?”

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