Creative Codes: 6 principles for creating on TikTok

June 12, 2023
TikTok's Creative Codes offer data-backed creative guidance to help you make high-performing videos.
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What is the key to a successful TikTok ad? It all starts with your creative strategy. But with so many options available, knowing where to begin and what kind of content works best on the platform can be difficult to nail down. That is, until now.

Introducing Creative Codes—six essential tips for creating TikTok ads that capture your audience's attention and drive impact. Each of these recommendations is backed by extensive research and meta-analysis.

Keep reading for a detailed breakdown of the Creative Codes and how to incorporate them into your brand's creative strategy.

Creative Code 1: TikTok-first

1. Build brand love by thinking TikTok-first

TikTok has its own unique style, from the way videos are shot to the use of TikTok-specific features like text overlays, voiceovers, green screen, and duets. So when creating TikTok ads, it's important to lean into these elements, and make videos that feel natural and seamless to the platform. When brands make ads that are TikTok-first, 74% of viewers say they catch their attention.¹ They also experience a significant lift across brand outcomes,² and drive 3.3x more action such as clicks, likes, and shares compared to other platforms.³

Don't underestimate the power of text overlays: creative attributes that get people to read increase view time, drive recall, and make ads more likable.⁴ You can even try the auto captions feature to add subtitles automatically.

One of the easiest and best ways to ensure that your ads are TikTok-first is to partner with TikTok creators. To do that, just head over to the TikTok Creator Marketplace—our one-stop shop for creator partnerships, where you'll find creators of all types to help communicate your key messages in a TikTok-first way.

For more information about how to create TikTok-first ad content, check out our TikTok Academy course here.

Creative Code #2: Trends

2. Use trends as storytelling templates

If there's one thing that connects the community of more than one billion users on TikTok, it's the secret language of trends. Trends allow brands to capitalize on storytelling templates created by our community. And with 77% of users saying they like it when brands use trends, memes, or challenges on TikTok to make new content,⁵ trying out trends will help you connect with new customers.

To explore what's trending in your region in real-time, dive into the Trends page on the Creative Center, where you'll see how brands are garnering billions of views by tapping into cultural moments. When you're ready to learn more, check out our TikTok Academy trends module here.

Creative Code #3: Production

3. Follow production principles to make creative work harder

Production on TikTok isn't complicated, but it's important to get the basics right. By following a few simple practices—shooting content vertically, using hi-resolution footage, and being aware of the UI-friendly "safe space"—your creative assets will be more efficient at spending and targeting.

But even the best ads will experience creative fatigue at some point, so be sure to refresh your ad creative often to keep the results flowing.

Need help creating high-quality ads? Check out our trusted partners on the TikTok Creative Exchange and explore CapCut templates to create high-quality videos quickly and effectively.

Creative Code #4: Structure

4. Structure your videos to hook viewers and inspire action

The art of storytelling is more than just a flex for creators on TikTok—it's also an impactful sales strategy for brands. By grabbing users' attention, conveying value, and driving action, a strong content structure will guide your audience through your ad and keep them engaged. We recommend a three-part structure consisting of a hook, body, and close.

  • Hook: 90% of ad recall impact is captured within the first six seconds,⁶ so communicate the value proposition of your ad early and keep your audience's attention with exciting hooks like suspense, surprise, and emotion.

  • Body: Pull the audience through your story with additive branding cues. As an example, ads showing the product on screen drive a 65% increase in brand affinity and 25% uplift in recall.⁴

  • Close: End on a strong call-to-action to seal the deal with customers. Instead of interrupting your content, leverage CTA cards, which lead to a 45% lift in recall and a 19% increase in likeability.⁷

For storytelling inspiration, check out the Top Ads Dashboard and Video Templates in the TikTok Creative Center.

Creative Code #5: Stimulation

5. Stimulate attention with editing techniques

Editing techniques like music, transitions, movement, text overlay, emojis, and branding work best to create interest, capture attention, and drive ad memorability.⁸ In particular, faster scene changes typically draw viewers in early, increasing chances of making an impression among an audience.⁸

For more inspiration and insights on how to effectively capture attention on TikTok with your ads, check out our TikTok Academy course and leverage easy-to-use creative solutions like CapCut, a video editing app that makes creating for TikTok seamless and effective.

Creative Code #6: Sound

6. Turn up the volume with the right soundtrack

According to 88% of TikTok users, sound is vital to the TikTok experience.⁹ With half of our users saying music makes content on TikTok more uplifting, energizing, and entertaining,¹⁰ knowing how to turn the volume up on your sound-on knowledge is essential to brands.

Whether it's voiceovers, sounds, or music, audio on TikTok can do everything from setting the mood to uplifting your story. To find the right tune for your ad, check out TikTok's Commercial Music Library for brand-ready songs that are available to use, or create original sounds that put you in the conductor's seat.

Get creative

Head over to the TikTok Creative Center to start producing TikTok-first ad content that stands out with structure, stimulation, sound, trends, and production.

Let's go!
Download the guide

Save the Creative Codes guide to reference in your next campaign. We can't wait to see what you create!

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  1. TikTok Marketing Science Global Creative First Study 2022 conducted by Ipsos.

  2. TikTok Marketing Science Creative Coding Analysis based on 3,500 TikTok ads that ran from 1/1/2021 - 10/1/2021 representing all major verticals, conducted by Kantar, 2022

  3. TikTok Marketing Science Global Entertaining Ads Study 2022 conducted by Marketcast

  4. TikTok Marketing Science US SMB Creative Effectiveness Study 2021, conducted by Lumen

  5. TikTok Marketing Science Global Community and Self-Expression Study 2021 conducted by Flamingo

  6. TikTok Creative Guide: Driving Brand Equity", 2020 (TikTok "Value of View" Analysis)

  7. TikTok Marketing Science, Top-Performing BLS Creative Analysis 2020

  8. Marketing Science Global Information Density 2022 conducted by Neuro-Insight

  9. TikTok Marketing Science US Cross-Platform Sound On Research 2022, conducted by Kantar

  10. TikTok Marketing Science EU Consumer Empathy Research, 2020; Base UK TikTok users in the past 7 days, 138 respondents; 148 respondents

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