TikTok is testing a new ad product: a sponsored video ad that directs users to the advertiser’s website. The test was spotted in the beta version of the U.S. TikTok app, where a video labeled “Sponsored” from the bike retailer Specialized is showing up in the main feed, along with a blue “Lean More” button that directs users to tap to get more information.
Presumably, this button could be customized to send users to the advertiser’s website or any other web address, but for the time being it only opened the Specialized Bikes (@specializedbikes) profile page within the TikTok app.
However, the profile page itself also sported a few new features, including what appeared to be a tweaked version of the verified account badge.
Below the @specializedbikes username was “Specialized Bikes Page” and a blue checkmark (see below). On other social networks, checkmarks like this usually indicate a user whose account has gone through a verification process of some kind.
Typical TikTok user profiles don’t look like this — they generally only include the username. In some cases, we’ve seen them sport other labels like “popular creator” or “Official Account” — but these have been tagged with a yellowish-orange checkmark, not a blue one.
In addition, a pop-up banner overlay appeared at the bottom of the profile page, which directed users to “Go to Website” followed by another blue “Learn More” button.
Oddly, this pop-up banner didn’t show up all the time, and the “Learn More” button didn’t work — it only re-opened the retailer’s profile page.
As for the video itself, it features a Valentine’s Day heart that you can send to a crush, and, of course, some bikes.
The music backing the clip is Breakbot’s “By Your Side,” but is labeled “Promoted Music.” Weirdly, when you tap on the “Promoted Music” you’re not taken to the soundbite on TikTok like usual, but instead get an error message saying “Ad videos currently do not support this feature.”
The glitches indicate this video ad unit is still very much in the process of being tested, and not a publicly available ad product at this time.
TikTok parent ByteDance only just began to experiment with advertising in the U.S. and U.K. in January.
So far, public tests have only included an app launch pre-roll ad. But according to a leaked pitch deck published by Digiday, there are four TikTok ad products in the works: a brand takeover, an in-feed native video ad, a hashtag challenge and a Snapchat-style 2D lens filter for photos; 3D and AR lens were listed as “coming soon.”
TikTok previously worked with GUESS on a hashtag challenge last year, and has more recently been running app launch pre-roll ads for companies like GrubHub, Disney’s Kingdom Hearts and others. However, a native video ad hadn’t yet been spotted in the wild until now.
According to estimates from Sensor Tower, TikTok has grown to nearly 800 million lifetime installs, not counting Android in China. Factoring that in, it’s fair to say the app has topped 1 billion downloads. As of last July, TikTok claimed to have more than 500 million monthly active users worldwide, excluding the 100 million users it gained from acquiring Musical.ly.
That’s a massive user base, and attractive to advertisers. Plus, native video ads like the one seen in testing would allow brands to participate in the community, instead of interrupting the experience the way video pre-rolls do.
TikTok has been reached for comment, but was not able to provide one at this time. We’ll update if that changes. Specialized declined to comment.