TikTok has officially revealed a new type of placement for its ad partners. The short-form video app will begin putting sponsored content in its search results as it continues to challenge Google‘s core business.
The search ads will come with “sponsored” tags and will be automatically toggled on for TikTok’s brand partners, according to The Verge. These placements have been in the works for months, but their final form is similar to the one that was rumored back in March. At the time, TikTok said it would display search ads as thumbnails and would use “scenery, images, voice-to-text, captions, and keywords” to determine the sponsored posts and search results that should be paired together.
By monetizing its search traffic, TikTok is harnessing a phenomenon that drew attention last year. In July 2022, Google exec Prabhakar Raghavan noted that the ByteDance-owned app was eating into Google Search traffic, especially among younger cohorts like Gen Z. Raghavan said that “almost 40% of young people” visit “TikTok or Instagram” when looking for a lunch recommendation.
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Both TikTok and Google moved quickly to recognize that shift in consumer habits. The former company began working on its new ads while also producing commercials that highlighted its utility as a search engine. Meanwhile, Google made its results pages more dynamic to provide young searchers with the same multimedia tableau they can see on TikTok.
That effort seems to have cut into TikTok’s momentum. Recent research from CivicScience showed that the use of TikTok as a search is down 7% year-over-year. For young Millennials, the YOY dip is 5%.
A greater investment in search — including the launch of the new ad format — could reverse that trend once again. In a post discussing the upcoming rollout, TikTok shared data from a 2021 study, which found that 58% of the app’s users discover new brands and products on the platform. That’s described as a 1.5x increase over other hubs.
Brands that decide to toggle off the sponsored search results can still take advantage of other new ad products TikTok has debuted over the past year. The app has catered to small businesses with expanded ads and campaign types, and it has provided a link to its most engaged viewers through a format called Focused View.