TikTok is reaping the benefits of a nation on lockdown, with dance routines, challenges and NHS-praising videos taking centre stage.
The social media platform – which launched its debut TV campaign last week – is also the home of Procter & Gamble’s "#DistanceDance", an initiative that gained more than eight billion views in its first week due to endorsements from celebrities including Jack Black, Jason Derulo and content creator Charli D'Amelio.
Campaign asked some of adland's social-savvy industry leaders to share their favourite videos and content creators on TikTok in the hope of spreading some joy amid the strange times we're living in.
Vicki Maguire, chief creative officer, Havas London
I started playing around with TikTok when I worked with Zalando at Grey. It allowed us to expand our reach but, in all honesty, I thought it would just go the way of Pokémon Go and Myspace.
In these crazy times, though, I find myself mindfully seeking out mindless stuff and TikTok has become my guilty pleasure: addictive, stupid but it can deliver. The cab conversation idea* is brilliant. I go there to see what @Lizzo is doing… she’s recently been in a spat with TikTok as they take her bikini-clad content down, while allowing others (wearing the same suit) to stay. But her workout video is an inspiration. Then, I just go on an aimless wander around lip-syncing and French bulldogs. An hour later, my battery is flat.
*TikToks that play one-half of a fake phone conversation to make a cab driver think that there is someone keeping track of the passenger’s whereabouts.
Matt Lever, chief creative officer, BMB
Magic. Fills me with dread. Aside from the vague hope that the person in the box would actually get sawn in half in some kind of calamitous start to the best episode of Casualty EVER, it’s never been for me. Until now. I find myself in a constant, quarantine-induced, illusion-based wormhole, watching Zach King’s mind-bending little films.
Yes, we all know it’s camera trickery, post effects and clever edits, but it’s captivating and entertaining. Plus, it’s distracting my kids from making me learn those ridiculous TikTok dances (for the moment, at least). And that really is magic.
Chaka Sobhani, chief creative officer, Leo Burnett
My new favourite wormhole, I have lost hours swiping away. Personally, I’m not bothered about following specific creators – all my preferences are open and I enjoy the random swiping up, not knowing what batshit bit of content is coming my way. Pure joy and daftness. I fucking love it. Current favourites still include "Oh Na Na Na", "Bored in the House", "Wow You Can Really Dance", "Shuffle dance" (don’t try if you’re over 30) and "Blinding Lights".
I challenge anyone not to have their heart burst out of their chest watching the NHS heroes do countless versions of the last one. Makes me smile through snotty tears. And rather love how brilliant humans are at finding light even in the darkest times. In the immortal words of Color me Badd: "TikTok, you don’t stop."
Richard Brim, chief creative officer, Adam & Eve/DDB
#BashTheEntertainer – he’s the self-proclaimed CEO of copying sounds and he does it very well before cracking himself up. What’s not to fucking love?
Jordan Dale, associate creative director, Above & Beyond
I have to admit, Covid-19 is the best thing that’s happened to TikTok. It’s flooded the platform with millions of new users, forcing creators to make stuff that truly stands out.
Someone who’s ticking all the boxes for me is @nj.visions, a Yorkshire lad with some super-watchable cooking content that feels so native to the platform. It’s like Action Bronson meets vintage Joe Wicks.
For a solid nose-laugh, @maxemersontaylor is my guy. His stupid challenges like the "run a mile with a glass of milk in your hand" are peak TikTok ridiculousness. They’re like nothing else on the platform. And they’re hilarious.
Lore Oxford, global head of cultural insights, We Are Social
Sara Echeagaray gives TV the TikTok update we didn’t know we needed. Remember the scene from Friends, where Phoebe and Ross find out that Monica and Chandler are dating? Now picture that scene, but every character (and the studio audience) is played by the same person wearing character-specific outfits, and that person is a teenage girl who’s got 1.1 million followers on TikTok. This is Sara Echeagaray’s MO, an 18-year-old from Texas with the shining eyes and sleek hair of a Disney princess, and the humour of a teenage stoner.
Her channel consists almost entirely of recreations of scenes from TV shows, with a weighting towards comforting American sitcoms like Friends, The Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl, in which she plays every character with an acting prowess that’s frankly admirable.
It’s notable that Echeagaray and her peers are too young to have experienced many of the scenes that she recreates, exemplifying a Gen Z "nostalgia" for a pre-internet cultural landscape they never actually experienced.
For millennials like me, though, she’s providing a hilarious update on undiluted nostalgia for simpler times. For any budding TikTok users who – like me – have spent lockdown binge-watching reruns to numb the horrors of our current reality, I highly recommend her channel.