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Understanding attention on TikTok: Ads drive strong brand impact across view durations

journal of advertising research

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A recent study shows that TikTok ads drive strong brand recall and positive sentiment across various view durations. The study was conducted in partnership with MediaScience and shows that brands on TikTok are more memorable and perceived more positively than brands on competitive platforms.

What was the study?
MediaScience® is a leading neuromarketing research firm specializing in media and advertising innovation that uses in-lab, privacy-safe eye tracking, heart rate monitoring, and GSR technology to measure how participants interact with ads and content. This provides a holistic approach to insights on how advertising affects consumers on both a stated and subconscious level.

This research study, commissioned by TikTok’s Marketing Science team, was conducted in the United States with 343 in-lab respondents between the ages of 18 and 45. Participants scrolled at their desired pace through either a TikTok experience or one of three competitive platform experiences. Each experience included 8 test ads each and participants were allowed to skip through ads and content as they normally would.

Key findings and observations
Results of the study highlighted some key observations from MediaScience, all pointing to the power and potential business impact the TikTok platform makes available to advertisers. Overall, ads on TikTok were found to drive higher early user engagement and attention, showed stronger brand recall, and generated more positive brand sentiment than other platforms tested.

TikTok ads are engaging and memorable, even at short durations
Usually, the longer an ad is on screen, the more likely it is to be remembered. But in this study, even if a viewer chose to watch for shorter durations, TikTok ads packed a punch.

Brand recall increases the longer an ad is watched, but ads on TikTok see strong brand recall regardless of view duration. An ad on screen 6 seconds or less still delivered 38% of the recall compared to ads viewed 20 seconds or more.

Attention and engagement are captured early
TikTok’s For You page consistently drives engagement for both content and ads. Regardless of how long an ad stays on screen, TikTok draws early attention and physiological engagement in the first few seconds.

In other words, ads on TikTok take less time to make an impact with their audience than similar ads on other platforms.

TikTok drives better brand recall compared to other leading social platforms
Even in a skippable format, brands on TikTok were more memorable than other platforms. In the study, visual and cognitive attention metrics were similar across platforms, which indicates that ads had a similar opportunity to be processed on each.

So, when participants scrolled through platforms with skippable ad units as they naturally would—permitted to skip content and ads as desired—ads on TikTok were remembered better than on other leading platforms.

Ads on TikTok see more positive brand perception
The benefits for ads on TikTok don’t stop at engagement and brand recall.
The results of this study also show that brands advertising on TikTok experienced stronger brand perception and their ads were more likable than on other platforms.