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The agency behind one of TikTok's top ad campaigns says brands can build a massive audience through original music and dance trends but the 'window is closing quickly'

Evan Horowitz and Geoffrey Goldberg of Movers+Shakers
  • The creative agency Movers+Shakers creates original songs and dances for marketing campaigns on social media.
  • After driving billions of views for brand partners on TikTok, the company has recently been helping companies create their own organic (unpaid) accounts on the app. 
  • Business Insider spoke to the agency's cofounders Evan Horowitz and Geoffrey Goldberg to learn more about their strategy for running music-based ads on TikTok, and what's caught their interest on the app in recent weeks.
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The creative marketing agency Movers+Shakers knows how brands can grab attention on TikTok: it's all about music, dancing, and branded hashtags.
But still it's often difficult for brands to join into existing music trends — never mind start their own — without appearing to be pandering.
Movers+Shakers thinks it's found the right formula and has the campaign results to back it up.
Founded in 2016 by former Broadway performer Geoffrey Goldberg and Harvard MBA and marketer Evan Horowitz, the company specializes in music and dance-based ad campaigns on social media.
"Before TikTok existed, we'd been creating original branded music for a long time for other social platforms," Horowitz, the company's CEO, told Business Insider. "When we saw TikTok coming up, we were very curious about it because so much of the conversation on TikTok is rooted in dance and rooted in music."
The company's first foray into TikTok marketing — a campaign with the beauty brand e.l.f. Cosmetics that launched in October 2019 — set a new standard for brand engagements on the app. Movers+Shakers created an original e.l.f. song for the marketing push, "Eyes. Lips. Face. (e.l.f.)," that's been used in over 1.7 million videos to date. The song has 15 million streams on Spotify and millions of plays on YouTube, and the campaign's hashtag "#eyeslipsface" has been viewed 5.2 billion times on TikTok (the brand re-released the song as "Eyes. Lips. Face. Safe." in March to remind users not to touch their face during the coronavirus pandemic).
The success of the campaign shows the potential of TikTok for brands more broadly.
Companies that have tested the waters on TikTok by posting unpaid videos, hiring influencers for sponsored posts, or paying for promoted challenges have often seen a remarkable willingness of users to engage with branded content. The opportunity to promote a brand on TikTok extends well beyond achieving a certain number of views or "likes." Companies that effectively start or join a trend on the app can get their message amplified in user-generated videos and song streams on other music platforms. TikTok users (so far) are happy to film themselves doing a dance that a brand paid for and include brand hashtags in videos if it's being done by a top creator like Charli D'Amelio or Addison Easterling.
But a brand has to strike the right tone for the app's primarily Gen-Z audience.
"There were only a handful of examples of brand campaigns on there at the time," Horowitz said when asked how Movers+Shakers began building out its e.l.f. strategy last year. "Chipotle was definitely a role model that we looked to. They had executed multiple successful campaigns. We wanted to enter the platform in a way that would feel natural to the conversation that was already happening there, so that was really what we were trying to understand."
The idea that a TikTok song created by a cosmetics brand would generate millions of streams may once have seemed strange, but it doesn't surprise Horowitz, who's been watching the app's users define pop music charts in recent months.
"I think the nature of TikTok as a platform is that it's one of the main places that music is being launched right now," Horowitz said. "It's only natural that brands that create really good music that the community on TikTok really resonates with, that that music can start to trend and be successful outside of the platform."

Scooby Doo too

With the success of the e.l.f. Cosmetics campaign, Movers+Shakers' cofounders Goldberg and Horowitz caught the attention of many industry professionals, some of whom now pay the company for a weekly TikTok trends email subscription and join webinars that it hosts for marketers on how to succeed on the app.
The company has also landed TikTok marketing deals with other large brands like Warner Bros. Entertainment, which hired Movers+Shakers to promote its new direct-to-streaming Scooby Doo movie, "Scoob!," with another TikTok branded hashtag challenge.
The campaign's hashtag "#ScoobDance" launched on May 2 with an original dance (choreographed by TikTok star Jalaiah Harmon) and an original song created by Movers+Shakers and Warner Bros. The hashtag has already passed three billion views on the app, though Movers+Shakers and other marketers like Chipotle aren't sure exactly what method TikTok uses to count "views."
(TikTok hasn't publicly shared its methodology for counting views, though the company told Business Insider that it does work with brand partners to help with measuring campaign performance and providing insight on measurements that are specific and relevant for a particular campaign.)
Planning for the Scooby Doo TikTok campaign began in the fourth quarter of last year and Movers+Shakers said it worked with a variety of music artists and managers to create an original song for the project.
"We knew we wanted it to be something that would invite dancing," the company's CCO Goldberg said. "We knew we wanted to include certain sounds of Scooby in the track, so that was actually really fun, collaborating with Warner Brothers. And then we're really carefully crafting every moment of what is ultimately 15 seconds where we're inviting people to do their TikToks to make sure that every moment is capturing attention, every moment is inviting creativity, and every moment is intentional and getting people excited to do it."
The company enlisted the creator of TikTok's "Renegade" dance, Jalaiah Harmon, to invent choreography that Warner Bros. Animation then spent a few weeks recreating for Scooby to do in the final video.
In addition to paying Harmon and a variety of other human and canine TikTok influencers to dance to its "Scoob!" song, Movers+Shakers also used TikTok's branded hashtag challenge product to help promote the campaign on the app.
"When a brand purchases that product, they get [a] landing page," Horowitz said. "So when you go to the Scoob! dance landing page, you see that it's branded, you can see that it's for the Scoob! movie, that it launches on May 15th."
"It's really up to the creative concepts whether TikTokkers love it and jump on the bandwagon or they think it's lame and they just ignore it," he added. "And that's where you see the huge difference in outcomes between some of the branded challenges and others."
The Scoob! TikTok campaign was almost put on hold as Warner Bros. debated whether to postpone the film's rollout for a theatrical release or offer it on-demand to consumers sheltered at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
"This campaign actually worked really well before and after quarantine happened, so there wasn't any modification needed," Horowitz said. "It happens to be perfect. It's something you can do from home."

The future for brands on TikTok is bright, if not troll-free

With a few successful campaigns under its belt, Movers+Shakers said it's optimistic about TikTok's future when it comes to attracting brands and consumers, though the company's CEO acknowledged that the app is just as vulnerable to some of the negativity that has plagued other social-media apps.
"I can't predict the future, but I think with TikTok, it's very much in the ethos of the platform that it is open, accepting, positive, and uplifting," Horowitz said. "The tone of TikTok, which has been consistent through the whole pandemic, is uniquely joyful, positive, optimistic, fun. What we've seen change with the pandemic is that people are seeking that out more."
When asked about negative comments appearing inside posts in its recent Scoob! campaign, the company's CEO described cynical social-media engagement as unavoidable.
"We're looking more at what's the broad tone of the conversation, knowing that there's always going to be people who are very positive and people who are negative," Horowitz said. "I think that comes with the territory, and as an agency and our clients, we're not afraid of that. We're used to it."
As it looks to branch out from focusing on viral dance campaigns on TikTok, Movers+Shakers has also been working with companies (including e.l.f. Cosmetics) to create new strategies for running their own TikTok accounts.
Horowitz pointed to the Washington Post and Red Bull as examples of brands that have successfully grown audiences on the app by posting organic (unpaid) content, though he noted that their specific strategies may not work for other brands.
"Washington Post has built a huge TikTok presence," he said. "They have one main guy who works for them who really has just nailed this TikTok routine that he does with them and people love it. Totally different from Red Bull's TikTok strategy. They've been successful at bringing in some of their action and thrill content from other platforms. Again, that's a unique strategy that for most brands it wouldn't work for them."
Media brands like the Washington Post and The Infatuation have leaned into music and comedic trends to build large followings on TikTok in the past, though a recent policy change by TikTok that blocks verified businesses from using non royalty-free songs without obtaining a license for commercial use may hamper this strategy going forward.
TikTok's decision to restrict song access for verified businesses could create even more demand for the services of companies like Movers+Shakers, which has an existing network of artists, music managers, and labels who can create original songs in genres like pop, hip-hop, trap, and jazz.
As it looks to the future, Movers+Shakers is also eyeing the opportunity to work with a greater variety of brands who cater to non-Gen Z consumers as TikTok's user demographics age up.
"We're starting to work with brands that have a little bit of an older consumer and older fan base, and I'm excited to see how that plays out within different fan bases and consumers on the app," Goldberg said. "What's TikTok for millennials going to look like? And how's that going to look different from TikTok for the Gen Z crowd? And how can brands play in both of those spaces, or in one of those spaces?"
Goldberg and Horowitz both noted that brands shouldn't slack on creating a presence on TikTok during the current economic downturn, particularly as there's heightened interest in social media among at-home consumers.
"My main message to brands on TikTok right now is there's this really unique moment of opportunity where the platform is very robust from a user standpoint," Horowitz said. "There's so many people here spending so many minutes every day on the platform, and there's disproportionately few brands."
"At the same time, that window is closing quickly," he added.
For more stories on how media companies, advertisers, and marketers are engaging with TikTok, check out these other Business Insider Prime posts:
  • A media company explains how it's gotten attention on TikTok with music, employee personalities, and lo-fi production: Business Insider spoke to the CEO and marketing lead at The Infatuation to learn more about the publisher's TikTok strategy.
  • TikTok is breaking download records and taking over pop culture. But experts say it faces challenges in turning user growth into profit: Brands, creators, and marketing experts are still determining whether TikTok's recent success is a fad or a sign the app will dominate long term.
  • JanSport hired a Gen-Z 'think tank' to help launch a TikTok influencer campaign during the coronavirus pandemic without appearing tone deaf: The backpack brand JanSport hired 10 TikTok creators to generate buzz around its donations to the nonprofit World Central Kitchen.
  • A teeth-whitening brand studied TikTok's algorithm to decide which influencers to hire and ended up gaining 100,000 followers in a week: HiSmile hired TikTok stars from the Hype House and Sway LA to create a wave of attention-grabbing videos on the social app.
  • A milkshake brand blew up on TikTok, and its 460,000 followers have changed how it approaches marketing and its target audience: With 460,000 TikTok followers, the milkshake maker F'real has built a larger following than national brands like Chipotle, Walmart, and Burger King.
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* This article was originally published here

https://www.businessinsider.com/creative-agency-movers-shakers-tiktok-dance-music-campaign-elf-cosmetics-2020-5

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