Reddit and TikTok push product discovery at Cannes

Reddit and TikTok push product discovery at Cannes
Cannes Lions 2024

“We’re not trying to compete against Google.”

Stuart Flint, TikTok’s head of global business solutions, Europe and Israel, was clear that the social video giant is not trying to encroach on Google’s dominance in search.

And yet, at Cannes, a prominent part of the messaging from both TikTok and Reddit is that they are places for users to discover, review and recommend products, and that brands should take advantage of it.

In a conversation with The Media Leader at the Carlton, a chipper Flint framed the “journey of discovery” as a core push to clients driven by the development of TikTok users moving beyond the popular For You feed and proactively searching for topics of interest on the app.

He described the discovery journey as an “infinite loop” of researching goods and services, purchasing them and creating content based on those goods and services, in turn contributing to others’ research, and so on ad infinitum.

Different ways to influence

In a separate conversation with The Media Leader at Reddit’s two-storey stand on the Croisette, Paul Peterman, senior managing director, large customer sales, North America, and Alex Underwood, global head of agency development, referred to Reddit as an “influence engine”, pointing out that a quarter of posts on Reddit are recommendation posts around goods and services.

While TikTok and Reddit (and most social media companies) lay claim to providing user and brand experiences underpinned by authenticity, they do so in different ways. Reddit’s stance, as outlined by Underwood, is that it eschews the influencer economy for communities made up of (primarily) anonymous individuals incentivised to give honest opinions, which are ranked by popularity.

TikTok Cannes Lions Olivier Anrigo Getty

TikTok’s stall in Cannes. Image credit; Olivier Rodrigo, Getty Images

On the other hand, TikTok is creator-centric and Flint described brands have been most interested in understanding how they can best identify and leverage individual creators across a range of overlapping communities. For example, he explained how a travel company seeking to advertise on TikTok would not just want to partner with a prominent TravelTok creator, but also on BookTok and FitnessTok, because reading and fitness are core to many people’s travel experience.

Reddit turns up the charm

Underwood, who joined Reddit in August 2022, said Reddit’s own conversations with agency partners have progressed significantly over the past 18 months. Whereas then, agencies still needed to be educated on the commercial opportunities with the platform, today they are “leaning in”, aided by a push to develop Reddit as a stronger ad proposition in the lead-up to the company going public in March.

In its first-ever public Q1 earnings, Reddit announced a 48% bump in revenue to $243m, of which the majority came from advertising.

Peterman added that the dialogue with brands and agencies has shifted in recent months from them asking “Should we be on Reddit?” to “How should we be on Reddit?”.

5 takeaways from Reddit’s public filing

The message chimes with comments made to The Media Leader earlier this year by Kris Boger, TikTok’s general manager, UK global business solutions, who similarly described brands moving from “Why TikTok?” to “How TikTok?”.

Progress with agencies hasn’t caused Reddit to get complacent at Cannes this year, however. Underwood described hosting a number of key private events with Interpublic, Dentsu and WPP, and earlier in the week the company hosted its inaugural “founders dinner”, with CEO Steve Huffman joining agency leaders for a dinner featuring food and drink curated in part using Reddit user recommendations.

Can AI boost creativity?

The conversation between media companies and their clients at Cannes this year has been predictably dominated by the topic of AI.

Earlier in the week, TikTok outlined a new AI feature dubbed Symphony Digital Avatars that allows users to create and customise generative-AI avatars of real, licensed actors and creators, which can be deployed to deliver brand messaging across different languages.

The social video giant also announced “Symphony AI dubbing”, an AI translation tool that allows creators and brands to dub videos with different languages.

Flint emphasised repeatedly that TikTok wants to create “a really trusting, secure environment” for its users, including around the use of AI and misinformation. He noted that TikTok will always clearly label whether a post was created using AI tools and suggested that AI can provide a boost to creators and brands wanting to reach new audiences or tailor copy to specific localities.

On the other hand, Reddit leaned in to the topic of AI primarily as a way to sell advertising to the burgeoning AI industry, with leaders suggesting that the platform, which includes numerous communities of tech enthusiasts, is prime real estate for companies wanting to advertise their AI products and to solicit direct feedback from users.

Reddit itself brokered a deal last month with OpenAI to allow it train its large language models on Reddit posts.

In a more nuanced take, Underwood described AI as creating an overabundance of digital noise. That could be to Reddit’s benefit, he argued, assuming there remains a consumer desire to interact with real people, rather than algorithms, when seeking out advice and asking questions.

“Increasingly, people are seeking a real human connection,” he said.

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