Mastering TikTok Ads in 2024: The Ultimate Guide for DTC Brands

January 5, 2024

Mastering TikTok Ads in 2024:
The Ultimate Guide for DTC Brands


Business is booming on TikTok, and if you want in on that action, you need to master the art of the effective TikTok ad. DTC brands are taking TikTok by storm, and its more than 1.1 billion monthly active users love the ease of buying fun, exciting products without needing to head to a brick-and-mortar middleman. 

Tapping into TikTok’s younger demographics is a surefire way to ramp up your marketing in 2024. TikTok is the fastest-growing social media marketplace, attracting shoppers beyond Gen Z and Millennials. In fact, nearly one-third of TikTok users are Gen X, and 44 percent of those Gen X users say that the platform helps them ‘discover new things.’ If you want those new things to be your products, now is the time to bring your brand to TikTok shop. To do that properly, you’ll need to know all the ins and outs of TikTok ads. Let’s get you started with this ultimate guide to TikTok ads. 

Understanding TikTok Ad Structure

It’s one thing to say you’re going to run ads on TikTok; it’s another thing to know what types of advertising you can run and how to do it. Before we go any further, here’s a primer on the definitions and structure used in TikTok advertising. 

TikTok Ads: In the hierarchy of TikTok marketing, these are the smallest bits of advertising. TikTok Ads are the snippets of content that users see in their feed, whether they’re videos, graphics, or interactive elements that users can engage with. 

TikTok Ad Groups: TikTok Ad Groups are exactly what they sound like. These are categories of ads that are similar, whether it’s products from the same product line, different colors or styles of the same product, or however else you categorize your merchandise. Ad Groups are also the place where advertisers specify their target audiences.

TikTok Campaigns: TikTok Campaigns are the highest level in the TikTok advertising hierarchy. Campaigns consist of all your groups, which consist of all your categorized ads. 

For example, if you sell clothing, your TikTok advertising hierarchy might look something like this:

Campaign: Summer Clothing Line 2024

Groups: Women’s Swimwear, Men’s Swimwear, Children’s Swimwear

Ads: 3 pieces of content each for Women’s, Men’s, and Children’s bathing suits 

Understanding the Types of TikTok Ads 

There are several types of ads that you can use on TikTok, and this wouldn’t be much of a TikTok Ads guide if we didn’t explain them all to you. When you have a solid grasp on the types of ads you can market with on TikTok, you’ll be better able to budget for and manage your campaigns. 

First, let’s look at In-Feed Ads

Video Ads: Video Ads are short (less than 60 seconds) videos that showcase your products. They should be eye-catching and engaging to attract users. 

Spark Ads: Spark Ads are native-format ads that you invest ad spend in and that differ from in-feed ads. Spark Ads are created using your own brand’s TikTik posts (and organic posts from other creators, with their permission.)

Image Ads: Image Ads are static graphics or photos that appear in-feed. Although TikTok is primarily a video platform, singular stand-out images are also very attractive and visually appealing to users. 

Next, let’s have an overview of Shopping Ads

Video Shopping Ads: Video Shopping Ads are video ads that spotlight your products in action, but with an exciting twist—shoppers can follow links in the ad directly to your TikTok Shop rather than your external website. Not leaving the platform is an attractive feature for customers. 

Catalog Listing Ads: Catalog Listing Ads let you spotlight a collection of your products that users can browse through right from the TikTok app. 

Live Shopping Ads: These ads go hand-in-hand with live-streamed events. You can have a live broadcast complete with shopping opportunities for users—in real-time. Remember home shopping networks on cable TV and how buyers could call in and talk to the brand ambassador before purchasing a product? That’s how live shopping ads work on TikTok, just updated for the 21st century. Customers watching a live ad can ask you questions and get immediate answers. 

Then, you’ve got a pair of Interactive Ad formats to learn about: 

Carousel Ads: Carousel Ads are similar to Catalog Ads, where users can browse or swipe through multiple product photos to view more content and merchandise. However, Carousel Ads direct customers to your website rather than your TikTok Shop catalog. 

Pangle Ads: Pangle is a platform within a platform where TikTok advertisers can create and display playable ads like mini-games. These ads allow users to directly interact with the ad itself. 

Finally, TikTok has Special Formats for Managed Brands

TopView Ads: TopView Ads are the full-screen premium ads that you see when you open the TikTok app. These are effective because they are the first thing users see when they look at TikTok. 

Branded Hashtag Challenges: Branded Hashtag Challenges encourage more user-generated content. You give people a hashtag and challenge them to use it, which promotes engagement and can help your products get more views. 

Branded Effects: Branded effects are the pinnacle of TikTok ads. This entails creating augmented reality (AR) effects that users can include in their videos and user-generated content. 

When you understand all the types of TikTok Ads at your disposal, you can begin to design and budget for campaigns that reach your target audience and get real results. Every type of ad has unique benefits to offer, meaning you can create varied ads and ad groups to keep users engaged and coming back for more content. 

Understanding TikTok Ad Video Specifications 

To create ads that work on the TikTok platform, you have to optimize your content for their technical specifications. Vertical videos at a 9:16 ratio are the most commonly used (and what’s recommended.) You also want to make sure that you’re using content with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels. Other specifications to ensure your best look include:

  • Videos at 24 to 60 frames per second (fps)
  • Videos in MP4 or MOV formats (using H.264 for compression as needed)
  • Video lengths of no more than 60 seconds 
  • A bit rate between 517 kbps and 2.2 Mbps 

In addition, you have to respect the confines of the user interface; don’t put any graphics or text on the bottom one-third of the screen or the right-hand rail. Anything placed in those locations will be unreadable due to TikTok’s text overlays and icons. Following these specifications will help you optimize your TikTok ad content.

Understanding Budgeting and Bidding For TikTok Ads

Budgeting for TikTok ad campaigns is a little bit different from some of your other marketing because TikTok ads require you to bid, like an auction, for them to be seen. When your ad becomes eligible for viewers, you’ll have to bid for space on the timeline. Let’s break down what that process entails and the different ways you can maximize both your advertising budget AND your ad viewership. 

The TikTok ad auction bidding structure allows you to decide how you want to spend your advertising bids. There are four bidding methods on the platform. These are: 

CPV (Cost Per View): In CPV bidding, advertisers pay for each view their video ad receives. A “view” is typically counted when a user watches at least 2 seconds of the video.

CPM (Cost Per Mille): CPM is a bidding model where advertisers pay for every 1,000 impressions (views) of their ad, regardless of whether users interact with the ad or not.

oCPM (Optimized Cost Per Mille): oCPM is an automated bidding strategy where TikTok optimizes your bids to get the most conversions within your specified budget. This bidding method is more focused on achieving specific campaign objectives, such as app installs or website conversions.

CPC (Cost Per Click): With CPC bidding, advertisers pay for each click on their ad. This is commonly used for link-click ads that direct users to an external website or app.

You are always in complete control of how you bid and how much you bid on your TikTok ads. You set your budget, either daily or lifetime (of the campaign), and you can change these parameters at any time. There are minimum daily budgets for your ad bidding; for example, to run an ad group, your minimum budget must be more than $20 a day. 

There are also two strategies of bidding to consider. These are: 

Lowest Cost: In this bidding strategy, TikTok automatically bids to get the most impressions or views within your budget. This is suitable for advertisers who want to maximize reach while staying within a specified spending limit.

Cost Cap/Bid Cap: This strategy allows advertisers to set a maximum bid limit for their ads. TikTok will then aim to get the best results within the specified cost limit. It provides more control over spending while optimizing for your campaign objectives.

It’s crucial for you to familiarize yourself with these bid types and bidding strategies before you launch any TikTok ad campaigns. 

Understanding How to Set Up a TikTok Ad Campaign

Setting up a TikTok ad campaign might seem daunting, but it’s not too complicated as long as you follow these important steps. 

Create a TikTok Ads Account: Sign up for a TikTok Ads account. You can do this on the TikTok Ads Manager platform.

Create a TikTok Pixel: In TikTok Ads Manager, navigate to the Pixel section and create a new pixel. You’ll be provided with a code snippet to place on your website​​.

Install the Pixel: Add the code snippet to your website’s HTML header. For platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, or Google Tag Manager, you can use available integrations for easier installation​​.

Integrate Product Catalog: In the TikTok Ads Manager, navigate to the ‘Assets’ section, and add your product catalog. This step is essential for campaigns focusing on e-commerce conversions, allowing for detailed tracking of user interactions with your products.

Event Setup: Decide how you want to set up your events, either via TikTok’s Event Builder tool or custom code. This setup allows you to track specific actions taken on your site, such as page views or purchases

Choose Your Campaign Objective: TikTok offers various campaign objectives, such as:

Awareness Campaigns

Reach: Show your ad to the maximum number of people.

Consideration Campaigns

Traffic: Send more people to a destination on your website or app.

Video views: Get more views and engagement for your video ads.

Community Interaction: Get more followers or profile visits.

Conversion Campaigns

App promotion: Get more people to install and take desired actions in your app cost-effectively.

Lead generation: Collect leads for your business.

Website conversions: Drive valuable actions on your website.

Product sales: Sell products from your TikTok Shop, website, and app.

Name Your Campaign: Give your campaign a clearly descriptive name to help you track it later.

Create Ad Groups, Choose Your Schedule, and Set Your Budget: Organize your ads based on different targeting criteria, budget, and scheduling. Create Ad Groups to make sure your campaign reaches your desired audience(s). Decide when you want your ads to run by setting start and end dates for your campaign.

Define your daily or lifetime budget. You can choose between a daily budget (the amount you’re willing to spend per day) or a lifetime budget (the total amount you’re willing to spend over the entire campaign).

Any ad group budget needs to be large enough to generate 50 “events” per week. (Events = View Content, Add to Cart, Purchase, etc.) Make sure to follow the TikTok budget recommendations to ensure you get the best results for your ad spend.

Define Your Target Audience: Specify your target audience(s) based on demographics, interests, behaviors, and other criteria to ensure your ads reach the desired users. 

Set Bidding Strategy: Choose your bidding strategy based on your campaign goals using either Lowest Cost or Cost Cap/Bid Cap. Adjust your bid based on the competition and your goals. 

Create Your Ad: Build your ad by selecting the ad format (In-feed, Branded Hashtag) and uploading your content. Be sure to use the guidelines for optimization. 

Review and Submit: Review all your settings, including budget, targeting, and ad content, and then submit your ads for TikTok review. 

Monitoring and Optimization: Once your campaign is live, be sure to monitor its performance through the TikTok Ads Manager. Track metrics such as impressions, clicks, and conversions and use this data to optimize your campaign, adjusting targeting or budget as needed.


Setting Up Your TikTok Shop

TikTok Shop is an e-commerce solution within the TikTok platform, enabling sellers, brands, and creators to sell products directly on TikTok. To set up your shop, follow these steps:

Register a TikTok Seller Center Account: Start by registering for a TikTok Seller Center account to open your TikTok Shop​​.

Verification: Verify your identity by providing government ID, business incorporation documents, and contact information​​.

Profile Setup: Create a TikTok seller profile, optimizing it with your branding elements like logo, handle, bio links, & contact information​​.

Shop Activation: Set up your shop on TikTok Shop, where you can enjoy a 0% commission fee for the first 90 days​​. There are various ways to showcase your products, such as through LIVE Shopping, Shoppable Videos, and your Store Page​

Understanding TikTok Advertising Best Practices 

Attention-grabbing content lies at the heart of successful TikTok ads. This platform thrives on creativity and authenticity, so it is critical to develop visually stunning and engaging content that lingers with the audience. Whether it’s a dance routine, an engaging narrative, or a visually striking product showcase, you have to make the first impression count to keep viewers hooked. Consider creating two to four versions of your ads before launch that you can use to reach a more diverse audience, appealing to each group’s culture, needs, and wants. 

It’s also important to stay within the specifications with your content. The specs listed above are current as of this writing, but be sure to check on the platform for any changes to these parameters. You don’t want to put in the work to create an ad campaign only to find out the specifications have been updated before you can launch the ads. 

Speaking of updating, you also need to keep your ads current and relevant. TikTok is an ever-shifting platform that focuses on fresh, dynamic content. You don’t want your campaign to become stale or fall off trend. Be sure to keep your videos, photos, and product catalogs refreshed to hold your audience’s attention. Use TikTok’s Creative Center to view current and archived ad campaigns to see what works, what doesn’t, and adjust your strategies accordingly. This is a tremendous resource available to you and can give you insights into your industry and competitors, as well as overall trends and styles. 

Understanding How to Use TikTok Shop for E-Commerce 

TikTok Shop is a feature within the TikTok platform dedicated to e-commerce. With TikTok Shop, you can leverage the reach of the app to increase your sales and boost your profits. There are a few ways you can tap into the power of TikTok Shop: 

Live Shopping:

Brands can host live sessions where they interact with users in real-time.

Live Shopping enables direct communication, allowing brands to showcase products of interest and answer questions from the audience.

Users can engage with the live stream, ask questions, and make purchases while watching the live event.

Shoppable Videos:

Shoppable Videos integrate product links within the content of videos.

You can tag the products featured in your videos, providing users with a direct link to purchase items.

This feature allows a smooth transition between discovery and shopping. 

Product Showcases:

Product Showcases are a dedicated space for brands to display their goods for customers to browse. 

You can present products in a way that tells a compelling story, which boosts engagement and interest.

Users can explore a collection of products within the showcase, enhancing the overall shopping experience.

One last thing to note about Product Showcases, is that TikTok creators can showcase your brand’s products, should you choose to set up an affiliate plan in your TikTok Shop.

When creators add a brand’s products to their showcases, it “endorses” the product, allowing their followers to shop directly on the platform, thus extending a brand’s reach. Creators earn a commission of the brand’s choosing on each purchase made through their personal product showcases. 

These innovative, engaging ways to bring your products to your audience hold several benefits for you and your sales numbers. The interactive elements and features make engagement fun and exciting for users and encourage them to go deeper into the shopping experience. Having direct purchase capability also increases the chances that viewers become customers, because ease of purchase is the name of the game when it comes to selling your goods on social media platforms. 

Setting up a TikTok Shop means following a few steps to ensure that your business meets TikTok’s requirements, so you need to be prepared to submit documentation as part of the application process. The platform has to know that you are operating a legitimate business before they’ll give you space to advertise that business. Once you’ve submitted your registration form and necessary materials, it’s time to set up your TikTok Shop. You can access this feature through the ‘Shop’ tab in your TikTok business account. After that, here’s what you’ll need to do: 

Integrate Product Catalog: TikTok Shop may allow you to integrate your product catalog directly into the platform. You might need to provide details such as product names, descriptions, prices, and images. Our recommendation is to use a connector (Silk, Aftership or Feedonomics) to link your website’s catalog to TikTok Shop. You can learn more about using connectors at TikTok Shop Academy.

Set Up Product Listings: Create engaging and visually appealing product listings within your TikTok Shop. This might involve tagging products in videos or creating a dedicated section for showcasing your products.

Link to Your Website or Checkout Page: If TikTok Shop allows for direct purchases, ensure that your products are linked to your website or an integrated checkout page for seamless transactions.

Explore Promotional Tools:TikTok often provides promotional tools for businesses. Explore options like sponsored content, influencer collaborations, and hashtag challenges to promote your products.

Setting up your TikTok Shop should be as fun and engaging as you want your content to be, so be sure to make use of all the platform’s available tools and resources. Your TikTok sales will benefit from you taking the time to know how the app and all its requirements work. 

Understanding How to Integrate TikTok Shop and TikTok Ads 

TikTok Shop and TikTok Ads can be integrated to boost brand visibility and drive your sales. Here’s how you can effectively combine these two features:

Align Ad Content with Shop Products: Ensure that the products showcased in your TikTok Ads align with the offerings in your TikTok Shop. Consistency between your ads and shop creates a seamless link between discovery and purchase.

Use the Shoppable Videos in Ads Feature: This allows users to directly engage with your products while watching the ad, again streamlining the path from discovery to purchase.

Offer Exclusives: Create urgency and exclusivity by featuring special deals or promotions in your TikTok Ads. These exclusive offers draw users to visit your TikTok Shop and make a purchase.

Run Sponsored Hashtag Challenges:Combine the engagement of TikTok Ads with the virality of Sponsored Hashtag Challenges. Encourage users to participate in a challenge related to your products, driving both awareness and participation.

Host Live Shopping Events: Showcase your products through TikTok Ads and guide users to your TikTok Shop for direct purchases. Live events provide an interactive and real-time shopping experience.

Incorporate Influencers and Creators: Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Have TikTok influencers and creators feature your products in their content. Use TikTok Ads to amplify their reach, and guide users to your TikTok Shop to purchase the promoted items.

Highlight Testimonials in Ads: Feature customer testimonials or user-generated content in your TikTok Ads to add authenticity and build trust. 

Promote Limited-Edition Items: Use TikTok Ads to promote limited-edition or exclusive items available in your TikTok Shop. If users sense scarcity, they’ll feel compelled to purchase items before they run out.

Use Carousel Ads: Take advantage of TikTok’s Carousel Ads to showcase a variety of products in a single ad. 

Retarget Users Who Interacted: Use strategies to reach users who previously interacted with your TikTok Ads or TikTok Shop. Follow-up ads guide them to your TikTok Shop for a personalized shopping experience.

These tips and strategies can help you build a richer, more robust (and more effective) connection between your TikTok Ads and TikTok Shop, meaning better sales and profits for your business. 

Understanding What TikTok Advertising Success Looks Like

If you’re curious about how successful advertising on TikTok can be for you and your small business, consider this: brands of all sizes and from all over the world are using TikTok Ads and TikTok Shop to share their content and sell their goods. From makeup to cleaning products, financial services to major food corporations, the spectrum of industries leveraging the power of TikTok is diverse and global indeed. Here are three brief examples to help you understand what TikTok advertising success looks like. 

Sugar Island Clothing is a young brand that uses TikTok Video Shopping Ads to create stylish campaigns and drive their sales. They employed a summer campaign that drove up engagement and helped them make nearly 1,500 new sales over the course of the ads. 

Bears with Benefits is a health and wellness company that offers a diverse line of women’s vitamins and supplements, all packaged in bottles with a cute, colorful bear design on the label. They use Spark Ads, Video Shopping Ads, and targeted campaigns to attract customers from across the globe. 

Expedia travel subsidiary Orbitz tapped into the power of TikTok’s reach to create a campaign that included the Hashtag Challenge #TravelAsYouAre. This encouraged LGBTQIA+ travelers to add user-generated content, which Orbitz then leveraged into Spark Ads and other interactive content to increase engagement and promote their LGBTQIA+-friendly travel guides. 

These success stories from start-ups and corporations alike highlight TikTok’s effectiveness and reach across audiences from around the world. 

Understanding the Future of TikTok Ads 

As we look ahead, we can all recognize that TikTok advertising and e-commerce are set to witness significant shifts in trends. One key trend will be an increasing focus on interactive content. Short-form videos and dynamic engagement features are likely to remain central, with augmented reality (AR) and virtual try-on experiences gaining traction in TikTok ads. These incredible technologies will allow users to interact with products before making a purchase, creating a more engaging shopping experience. As technology advances, brands incorporating these trends will thrive as they continue to push the envelope of engagement withTikTok audiences. 

Much of the future of TikTok as an advertising platform will rest on personalization and data. With new and improved algorithms and targeting options, the emphasis will be on delivering highly relevant content to specific audience(s). Artificial intelligence (AI) could automate some, if not all, aspects of ad creation and delivery, making it easier to deliver more personalized messages. This automation has the potential to be a game-changer for your business. 

TikTok is a platform that will only become more effective as a sales tool. This type of ‘social commerce’ is ripe for collaboration between influencers, creators, entrepreneurs, and consumers. If you want to ensure that your business doesn’t get left behind, now is the time to set up your TikTok Ads and TikTok Shop—these are marketing and sales opportunities that you don’t want to miss. 

About the Author: Hailey Branham is a Director of Client Partnerships at adQuadrant with 10+ years of digital marketing and advertising experience. She graduated from the University of Texas in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Corporate Communication Studies before starting her career at a SaaS company, building and executing paid social media strategies for clients like Shoes.com, Target, Caterpillar, National Instruments, Aramark and more. From there, she worked as an Agency Partner Manager at Meta, where she partnered with best-in-class agencies across the country, adQuadrant being one of them. She joined the adQuadrant team in 2019 and has spent the last 5 years helping ambitious DTC brands unlock their potential and achieve profitable growth at scale. In 2021, Hailey was awarded the Amazing Women in eCommerce Award, which spotlights the impressive women pushing the eCommerce industry forward. A native Texan, she’s a lover of sunshine, hot sauce, and margaritas, and can always be found traveling, hiking, or spoiling her dogs.