What does TikTok’s first-ever UK TV ad tell about the app?

TikTok debuted its first-ever UK TV ad this week, where the app is described as “somewhere colorful, home-made and joy-filled”. The ad aims to position TikTok as an entertainment app, where users would find joy and amusement. How well does the ad reflect the reality of the app? And, what does it tell us about TikTok’s growth strategy?

The Rise of TikTok with Covid-19 Lockdowns

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The ad’s punchline, “A Little Brighter Inside” is meant to refer to the lockdown, from which TikTok benefited hugely by acquiring a lot of new users. The interest in the app grew substantially with the onset of the UK lockdown. Take a look at the screenshot taken of a graph on Google Trends, showing the leap in the interest in the keyword, “tiktok”, coinciding with the start of UK lockdown in March.

The Happier Place

Tom Daley in TikTok TV advert

TikTok positions the app as a happy place, a place where users would find joy and happiness. It’s not a coincidence that the app saw a huge growth in popularity during the lockdown. People used the app to fill in their extra leisurely time, looking for easy entertainment while escaping from the actual world’s problems.

This approach distinguishes TikTok from its main competitor, Instagram. Instagram’s context is focused on self-promotion and trendsetting, whereas TikTok is a place solely for self-expression and entertainment.

Come to talk about self-expression, the ad also deems the app as a place where “cats dance like no other cats are watching“. TikTok aims to position the app where everyone can feel free to express themselves without the fear of judging from others.

Increasing Engagement Through Remaking and Reacting

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Another interesting bit about the ad is that it also promotes “remaking” and “reacting” in the app. This goes hand in hand with the trend culture inside the app. Many users go engage with each other by “remaking” other videos’ using the same soundtrack, or posting reaction videos or even duets. It is clear that the app wants to promote this behavior, and thereby increasing the engagement.

The ad also featured a popular TikTok creator, Granddad Joe (@granddadjoe), and as well as other clips where youngsters are dancing with their parents. The app seems to be aiming to keep up the momentum of interest coming from older generations, breaking the notion that TikTok is only for Gen-Z’ers.


TikTok wants to keep up the momentum gained during the lockdown. They are looking to achieve this by promoting the engagement from older generations. The app also wants to further distinguish itself as a platform for social entertainment.

Watch the advert below on YouTube.

How did TikTok grow during Covid-19 Lockdowns, and Why?

With the best quarter for any app ever in Q1 2020, as well as surpassing 2 billion downloads globally, TikTok is the newest up and coming mainstream social media app. TikTok has been around since 2016, and the app was already seeing an increase in the momentum of its growth in 2019.

However, what caused the exponential growth reported in 2020, and what did COVID-19 lockdowns have to do with it?

The Best Quarter for any App Ever

TikTok Global Downloads by Quarter - SensorTower

Source: https://sensortower.com/blog/tiktok-downloads-2-billion

In the graph above by SensorTower, TikTok showed a steady growth in both 2018 and 2019, but what happened in 2020 that caused the download numbers to skyrocket? In order to investigate this, we took a look at Google Trends.

Google Trends Snapshot of Interest in TikTok

Google Trends show that the interest in the keyword “tiktok” grew exponentially in the second week of March – coincidentally when most major cities in the world implemented lockdown measures due to the looming COVID-19 pandemic. Evidently, the lockdown allowed TikTok as a platform to achieve a surge in popularity. The question that remains, however, is how exactly did the lockdown and stay at home orders contribute to this growth?

How did COVID-19 Lockdowns contribute to TikTok’s growth?

Lockdowns were great for TikTok’s organic growth, as it kept different generations under the same roof for extended periods of time. For example, empty nesters had their households full once again as college students returned back home.

Due to this, it wasn’t long before TikTok grew populated with several family dance videos, featuring parents and children dancing along to popularized TikTok moves.

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Here is a TikTok of a family attempting the #blindinglights challenge.

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At the same time, millennials began to discover the app and started flocking onto the platform to find out what the hype was about. This is in contrast to TikTok’s previous younger audience demographic, comprised mostly of teenagers. In fact, “#millenials” received over 140 million views! Some millennial creators even jokingly posted videos, claiming that millennials were the generation to invent social media and that they would take it over again!

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The Escapist’s Paradise

TikTok is a platform for humor and entertainment. There is no pride, politics, or quarrel on TikTok. This is the most important feature of TikTok, which distinguishes it from the plethora of available social media channels.

Unlike other channels, there are no negatives on TikTok. This is in contrast to individuals showing off their perfect moments only on Instagram, or talk of politics on Twitter.

For this reason, it was no coincidence that TikTok’s popularity surged when a catastrophic pandemic was taking over the world, and people evidently needed some humour in their lives.

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The quarantine hashtag received over 54 billion views on the app. This hashtag and similar hashtags are made up of videos showing how people coped with the quarantine lifestyle.

How about after all of this is over?

When the lockdowns around the world are finally lifted, people will go back to work and school. People won’t have as much time for watching or creating videos on TikTok. Instagram, after getting wind of TikTok’s popularity, has already started copying TikTok’s original lenses and effects (much like it did with Snapchat).

ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, is aiming to keep up the growth by promoting the app on many other media channels, including the other social media apps and TV.


TikTok, an app for pure entertainment and humor, had an advantage of engaging its users more during the difficult times of COVID-19 lockdowns. People used the app as an escape from the harshness of their real lives.

As people will go back to their normal lives, TikTok’s advantage will slowly dissipate. With that being said, TikTok will surely try to retain their new user base. However, challenges may arise for users who associate the app with their days in quarantine.