Just as Australian businesses seem to be figuring out the blueprint for advertising on TikTok, Ovira recently scaling up its reach to global audiences with a striking sex ed series, the marketing industry faces new jeopardy. Governments across the globe are banning the app from employee devices, and a total ban looms in the United States, over concerns that the Chinese government may be harvesting user data from TikTok.
TikTok allows unrivalled access to younger demographics, but its exclusive short-video form has challenged brands to develop content beyond the static or highly commercial material suitable for other social media platforms.
As Gen Z have hit adulthood in recent years, their values held in such opposition to millennial predecessors have entered public discourse, diresarding hustle-culture to appreciate work-life balance. Strong boundaries are clear in their social media engagement, cherishing intimacy, privacy and authenticity.
To assist marketing strategies, TikTok recently released a report into the ways audiences engage with content. The key themes of ‘me’, ‘we’, ‘play’ and ‘purpose’, or identity, community, entertainment and self-improvement, explain why the platform is a natural home to younger audiences.
So, what’s the problem?
In recent months lawmakers across the West have begun to restrict access to TikTok, many banning the app on government devices, with the Australian government currently considering a similar ban.
Concern stems from the possibility that Chinese parent company ByteDance could be allowing the Chinese government access to user data.
These relatively minor bans may not trouble brands that target Gen Z, but discussion in the United States of a total, nationwide ban should. Their gateway to a significant demographic may vanish as more and more bans are implemented.
The precedent for a total ban
The Indian government banned TikTok along with dozens of other Chinese apps in June 2020, citing national security concerns. A government statement claimed that these apps were engaged in activities that were “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”
Tensions between India and China had been rising at the time, with a deadly border clash between the two countries occurring in the same month as the ban. To some this may have painted the ban as political vengeance, undermining the validity of the security concerns.
But rising tensions between China and the United States draw parallels to India’s 2020 situation that may discourage marketers. They should already have contingencies to engage with Gen Z.