TikTok vs Instagram: Creative for Brands

What should advertisers think about when they are creating content for TikTok vs Instagram?
Nov 29 • 5 min read

On the surface these platforms are both lumped into “social media”, but dig a bit deeper and you can see how the TikTok aesthetic and attitude represents a shift from Instagram’s original immaculately curated origins.

I wanted to speak to an expert on TikTok creative and tracked down my ex-Facebook colleague Anthony McGuire (Author of the TikTok 101 course and the weekly Good TikTok Creative email).

We talked about what we had learned at Facebook about mobile advertising, from the acquisition of Instagram and the launch of its ads platform, which led to a great discussion about TikTok vs Instagram Creative. As an entertainment platform, TikTok is still early in its journey for advertisers and it’s this lack of maturity which makes it an exciting place for creative ideas.


MOBILE: The big thing that IG and TikTok have in common is that they are made for Mobile. On both platforms mobile behaviour is the foundation : brands’ content needs to be short (less than 15s), eye-catching (thumb stopping), and get to the point really quickly (win in the first second).


PARTICIPATION: With Facebook’s organic reach dropping after 2012, we discouraged social-participation creative ideas to focus on broadcast and reach. TikTok’s role as an entertainment platform means that branded hashtag challenges (supported by influencers and paid ads) are the current format of choice. Anthony calls out Asos campaign on the left which got the audience to share their strongest three outfits with the #AySauceChallenge, while their IG work on the right sticks with the studio look book. How sustainable are these hashtag challenges as more brands jump on board?

How sustainable are these hashtag challenges as more brands jump on board?

SOUND: Soundtracks & music are at the heart of TikTok (the Musical.ly acquisition and lip sync videos were one of the key building blocks of the platform). So much so that TikTok forces your sound on when you open the app. Instagram feed and stories are still an environment where you design for sound off first. Check out how @Doggface208 kicked this off with Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams (and the responses here, here and here) vs how Ocean Spray shows up in IG.

IMMERSIVE: TikTok is full screen and stuffed full of edge-to-edge videos. In the newsfeed environments on Instagram and Facebook there are a lot of boxes, white space and screen furniture. Check out JillianSurfs for a brilliant high speed example.

REAL vs CURATED: Instagram was born highly curated with an insane focus on quality and an aspirational aesthetic. The TikTok vibe is much more scrappy & authentic. Anthony uses the example of Jessica Alba who has a polished Instagram persona and goofs off with her kids on TikTok.

The TikTok vibe is much more scrappy & authentic.

PRODUCTION: Instagram has been a brilliant way for discovering new ideas, culture and products. These were traditionally well thought through, lit and staged. The realness of TikTok follows through to the video production; raw mobile shot footage and bits of people’s life bleeding into the shot. Using TikTok transitions and overlays on more traditionally originated content can be a good hacky way to adapt your campaigns from other channels and make it feel more native. These Shein clips compare the classic stop motion production on IG with the dancing bedroom shots of TikTok.

Instagram has been a brilliant way for discovering new ideas, culture and products.

PERFORMANCE: Where Facebook and Instagram are super mature on the creative side, supported by good tracking and ad products, TikTok is a relative newcomer.

There’s a big opportunity for direct to consumer companies in ecommerce or the digital goods space to crack the code on what TikTok creative for DR should look like as the platform matures.

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn