‘We will prevail’, insists TikTok exec as ITV, C4 and BBC join Pulse Premiere

‘We will prevail’, insists TikTok exec as ITV, C4 and BBC join Pulse Premiere
"You'd be surprised... It's not really a topic as much anymore," Kris Boger said of advertiser concerns over brand safety.

“In the UK, it’s business as usual.”

Kris Boger, TikTok’s general manager, UK global business solutions, told The Media Leader that despite the US government passing legislation that would seek to force ByteDance to divest from the app or face a ban, the company has not seen an impact in the UK market.

Speaking ahead of TikTok’s multiple presentations at Advertising Week Europe in London this week, Boger reiterated that “in the US, we feel the facts on our side and ultimately we will prevail.”

Boger noted the company has invested billions to safeguard European user data through an effort in Ireland dubbed “Project Clover”, and revealed another data centre in Norway will be “operational by the end of this year.”

“We think that [the efforts are] industry leading in terms of the work that they do around data privacy and the work that we do to keep our community safe. And when we talk with advertisers about these things, they really resonate.”

As such, in the UK, TikTok’s core focus has remained on expanding opportunities for advertisers rather than taking an ostensibly defensive posture in response to US political pressure. This week, the company is announcing the addition of three British broadcasters — ITV, Channel 4 and BBC Studios — to its Pulse Premiere programme, TikTok’s “most premium” advertising solution.

How would a US TikTok ban impact the UK creator economy?

Big Three commercial broadcasters buy in

Pulse Premiere is one of TikTok’s contextual advertising solutions. Whereas a comparable solution, known simply as Pulse, allows brands to buy ad space immediately following the playing of content in the top 4% of trending videos on the platform, Pulse Premiere allows advertisers to place their ads directly after premium publisher content played in TikTok’s ‘For You’ feed.

TikTok had previously struck deals on Pulse Premiere with Sky Sports and Condé Nast. With the addition of BBC Studios, ITV and Channel 4, the BBC and the Big Three commercial UK broadcasters are now involved in TikTok’s ad feature, and just in time for coverage across this summer’s Olympic Games and UEFA European Championships.

In February, TikTok also reached a partnership with Team GB and ParalympicsGB for the Paris 2024 Games.

“We’re an entertainment platform… we want our community to be able to enjoy the entertainment that comes from those publishers,” said Boger. “… [the Olympics and the Euros] are going to be things that everyone’s going to be talking about.”

Boger said the feature improves ad effectiveness, citing internal research that found Pulse increases ad recall by 11% and brand awareness by 6% compared to non-premium inventory. It also gives brands more control over where their ads show up in the algorithmically-sorted For You feed.

Publishers in the Pulse Premiere programme earn a share of revenues from advertising placed adjacent to their content, though Boger declined to reveal terms of the revenue share deal.

From ‘Why TikTok?’ to ‘How TikTok?’

Boger admitted Pulse Premiere is also an important brand safety play.

He told The Media Leader: “For Pulse Premiere, and even beyond that, a lot of this comes down to content adjacency and fear of being screenshotted, or being seen to be related to a piece of content that the advertiser is not comfortable with.”

Boger argued Pulse Premiere offers the positive benefits of content adjacency by playing ads directly after premium, brand safe content. He also suggested TikTok is unique compared to its competitors since videos on the app load full-screen, one at a time, meaning brands’ ads cannot be screenshotted as against any potentially harmful or otherwise brand unsafe content.

“Any safety concerns across the platform are, to an extent, mitigated that way,” he offered.

Boger added that such concerns around brand safety — despite still being a top priority for TikTok to address — do not appear to be a major concern for TikTok’s advertisers.

“You’d be surprised,” said Boger. “It’s not really a topic as much anymore.”

4 key learnings when we tested Super Bowl ads on TikTok

He explained that brand safety is a question of “why TikTok?” — whether a brand should be on the platform or not. “What we see is advertisers are now past that,” Boger continued. “The question that they’re asking us is ‘How TikTok?'”

He pointed to partnerships TikTok has struck with “the most sensitive advertisers [to brand safety]” like P&G and Unilever, which he called a success, as one way in which the conversation with advertisers has appeared to move beyond the concerns more commonly raised by politicians about the purported dangers related to the platform.

Lingering concerns

Despite Boger’s confidence, TikTok and its social media competitors still remain embattled — if not by advertisers, then by politicians and constituents concerned about the harmful effects of social media on young people and on democracy.

Boger emphasised TikTok’s stance not just on data protection and brand safety, but on consumer safety more generally. For example, he explained the company takes the debate around whether its users can become addicted to the short-form video app “really seriously.” By default, TikTok sets a 60-minute time limit for users who say they are under 18, though this can be overridden with the use of a passcode.

According to Boger, such a policy is an “example of something that we’ve done voluntarily to make sure that the experience of being on TikTok is one that is entertaining, fulfilling, enriching and is enabling people to discover new forms of entertainment.”

More recently, the company announced it would be automatically labelling AI-generated content made on other platforms as it looks to head off concerns around misinformation and disinformation in an election year. Broadly, Western politicians have expressed additional concerns over TikTok’s potential to influence its primarily younger audience.

While questions of TikTok’s opaque algorithms are likely to remain, with trusted publishers joining Pulse Premiere or otherwise increasing investment in video production, the company appears to be embracing the importance of trust, at least for the sake of advertisers.

Boger added: “So long as [the community] is there, and we have the safety controls in place, we’re really optimistic about the future.”

Podcast: How important is attention measurement to TikTok? With head of client measurement Steve Lockwood

Editor’s note: This article has been updated after publication to reflect that BBC Studios signed a deal with TikTok to be included in its Pulse Premiere programme.

Media Jobs