As Trump threatens ban, TikTok launches U.S. ad campaign
TikTok on Tuesday announced a nationwide ad campaign that features people who create content for the viral social video app.
The move comes as the company, owned by China-based ByteDance, faces growing pressure from President Trump, who believes the app is a national security threat because of its ties to China. Trump has filed an executive order for ByteDance to divest its U.S. TikTok operations by Nov. 12.
But TikTok, which employs roughly 1,500 employees in the U.S., said that it has not and will not give U.S. user information to the Chinese government. The company said in a statement that it is grateful for the support of its users, and the ad campaign “acknowledges how much this community means to us.”
“The vision ... is to celebrate the impact of the TikTok community on every facet of culture, from arts to food, beauty, fashion and film,” TikTok said. “Our community brings so much joy and inspires creativity daily, and we’re excited to put that on full display.”
TikTok’s U.S. ads began Monday and will run through Oct. 12. The commercials will appear on channels including ESPN, TNT, ABC and NBC, over radio, and through digital platforms including Hulu and Spotify. One of the ads will appear at tonight’s Lakers vs. Blazers NBA game, TikTok said.
The company said that the campaign will continue next month in other markets, including the United Kingdom, European Union, Latin America and Southeast Asia. TikTok declined to say how much it is spending on the ad campaign.
The social video app faces growing scrutiny from the U.S. government, rising competition from rivals like Facebook and the defection of top creators.
TikTok debuted two years ago in the U.S. after its parent, ByteDance, purchased Shanghai-based lip-synching app Musical.ly. Since then, TikTok has grown exponentially in popularity, especially during the COVID-``19 pandemic as people looked for ways to entertain themselves at home.
The app, filled with a wide stream of videos from comedic takes to trendy dance moves, has transformed the entertainment industry. Talent agencies discover new stars through TikTok; music artists leverage the platform to market their songs to become hits; and video creators use TikTok as a career, making money through brand deals and promotions. In L.A., there are more than 65 career creators and nearly a dozen influencer houses that started because of TikTok, the company estimates.
L.A.’s TikTok creators earn thousands of dollars a month. Trump’s threat of a potential ban has them concerned.
But TikTok’s growth has been hurt by the Trump administration’s allegations. Earlier this month, Trump issued an executive order that would bar transactions between American companies and ByteDance starting Sept. 20, sending creators into a panic over whether they could still make money through the app. It also caused concern among TikTok employees who worried whether they would continue to get paid.
TikTok has maintained that it has not given U.S. user information to the Chinese government and that the U.S. data is stored in Virginia and backed up in Singapore. The company plans to open a transparency and accountability center later this year in Culver City where outside experts can learn about the company’s moderation policies and see the code that powers its algorithm.
TikTok and its employees are exploring their legal options in two potential separate lawsuits. Another option for ByteDance is to sell its U.S. operations of TikTok. Among the potential bidders is Microsoft, which has said it is exploring buying TikTok’s U.S., Australian, New Zealand and Canadian operations.
TikTok’s troubles have promoted rivals — including L.A.-based music video app Triller — to poach some of its most popular creators. Instagram has also recently launched its own short-form video feature called Reels. TikTok has tried to retain the loyalty of its creators through payments in its $200 million creator fund. Last week, the company announced the fund’s first 19 recipients.
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