Banking

TikTok is blocking fintech and other categories from influencer campaigns. Here’s how brands are adapting.

  • TikTok recently blocked fintech brands and other categories from running some influencer campaigns.
  • But there are workarounds, including using TikTok’s ad portal or posting on a brand’s own account.
  • Marketers say TikTok’s new policies are meant to protect the app’s younger users from bad actors.

TikTok recently updated its influencer-marketing policies, eliminating some options for brands that regularly run campaigns on the app.


Fintech companies
like

Cash App
(owned by Square) and Tally that saw strong engagement on influencer campaigns during the early days of TikTok marketing are now facing a stricter ad environment.

As of late May, TikTok has blocked all financial companies, dating apps, and live-video platforms from paying influencers to run sponsored posts on an influencer’s TikTok account. Brands like the video-chatroom app House Party, which tapped TikTok mega stars Michael Le and Josh Richards for a campaign in May 2020, are affected by the new branded content policies. And TikTok is also prohibiting influencer posts for movies and TV shows that are age restricted to viewers 15 years or older, a move that could impact streaming platforms that have been particularly enthusiastic about running influencer campaigns on the app.

Other categories are blocked in specific countries. Energy drinks, for example, aren’t allowed in the US.

But the new restrictions don’t represent an outright ban for startups on TikTok’s prohibited list. In fact, the restrictions are relatively narrow.

Cash App, for example, is no longer allowed to pay an influencer to post a video on the creator’s own account per TikTok’s ban on “all financial services and products.” But the company can still hire an influencer to make a promotional post for its payments app and then run the video on its brand-managed TikTok account. It can also buy ads through TikTok’s self-serve ad portal where it’s considered an acceptable advertiser per current policies.  

One European fintech company, which asked to remain anonymous so as not to damage its relationship with TikTok, said it’s taking this exact approach. One of its lead marketing staffers said the company’s own policies require that it target ads to users 21 years old or above, which can only be done using TikTok’s built-in ad portal through age targeting features.

Still, TikTok’s policy could be more of a headache for fintech companies specifically trying to reach younger users, like the teen-banking upstart Step where TikTok creator Charli D’Amelio is an investor.

Talent reps don’t seem concerned, however.

“I don’t look at this as a hurdle as much as a safeguard to protect our talent,” said Eric Jacks, chief strategy officer of Collab, a digital talent network and entertainment studio that works with TikTok stars like SpencerX (53.7 million followers) and Baby Ariel (35.5 million followers). “TikTok is trying to do a good job of filtering out certain types of content, and I think the policy change for them is really eliminating and addressing spam and figuring out how to add this layer of trust and transparency.”

From the outside, TikTok’s policy adjustment could also be construed as a money grab. The company gets 100% of the revenue from ads run via its ad portal, TikTok For Business. It gets no money for influencer-marketing campaigns set up by third-party marketers.

But marketers told Insider that they believed TikTok’s blanket ban on sensitive categories was mainly about ensuring that it could block certain types of ads from reaching young users. An influencer post can be viewed by everyone on the app, regardless of their age.

“The challenge is there is an audience under 18 that is consuming content,” said Neil Wallar, cofounder of the influencer agency Whalar.

Both Wallar and Jacks said they thought it was likely that TikTok would introduce more targeting controls for influencer marketers down the road so it could ease up on some advertiser category bans.

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