While TikTok bans are spreading throughout Western governments, marketers are apprehensive but unconcerned about the future.

That is not to suggest that marketers are unaware of the dangers TikTok poses. Advertisers will, however, continue to turn a blind eye in favor of an arguably more affordable platform to reach their target population until the red tape is significantly tighter. Having said that, there is unquestionably something unique about this most recent flashpoint regarding the geopolitical conflicts surrounding TikTok.

Three Western countries (the U.S., the EU, and Canada) have each demanded that the app be removed from government-owned devices in the past week alone. The overall message is clear: more legislators around the world are taking bold actions to impose restrictions on TikTok over the hazily expressed worries about the threat of possible future U.S. data abuses, even though some, like the U.K., have stated they won’t be following suit.

It’s disappointing to see that other government bodies and institutions are banning TikTok on employee devices without consideration or justification, a TikTok spokesperson said in response to a request for comment. “We appreciate that some governments have wisely chosen not to implement such bans due to a lack of evidence that there is any such need,” the spokesperson said.

Of course, the data breaches at issue are worries that the platform’s parent company ByteDance might divulge user information to China’s authoritarian government, endangering national security.

The TikTok spokesperson continued by claiming that the bans were the result of “basic misinformation” and that the company was prepared to meet with authorities to clarify things up. The spokesperson said: “We share a common objective with governments who are worried about user privacy, but these bans are misguided and do nothing to further privacy or security.”

Despite TikTok’s assurances, there has been a lot of official resistance in a very short amount of time. It is understandable why it has aroused some eyebrows in the marketing community.

Given the popularity of TikTok, particularly among users in the Gen Z demographic who have devotedly embraced the app as their primary platform for sharing, connecting, and creating online communities, marketers are likely to continue investing in the platform. In fact, news publishers have formed specialized teams to reach the public, while agencies have changed their strategies to focus on TikTok.

In light of the most recent wave of bans, Hannah Petts, social media head at Dewynters, said her company is already looking into additional earned media opportunities to connect with Gen Z. The justification behind the approach of using earned media, or organic content, to reach people is its capacity to be less dependent on ads that may require sharing data with the app.

In reality, it’s fair to say that the current TikTok flashpoint has given worries that had been simmering for a while fresh life.

Without naming specific customers, Kevin Goodwin, vice president of performance marketing at the company, said that some still have security reservations about using TikTok’s tracking pixel. And they’ve been using that strategy to stay somewhat at ease on the network ever since Digiday last spoke with the team in October of last year.

Despite these worries, it seems doubtful that advertisers will impose their own TikTok ban. Given that there is no concrete evidence that the app poses a privacy risk, that would be inconceivable in the current political environment. There is evidence, however, that the app is one of the primary methods marketers can simultaneously reach a large number of younger people. That’s a significant thing to give up in any situation, much less one where the threat of potential data abuses is the driving force.

According to Nigel Jones, co-founder of The Privacy Compliance Hub, “the lack of real regulation from privacy regulators of much of the internet advertising industry has encouraged marketers to avert their gaze.

Many advertisers are waiting to see what happens for the time being. In reality, they were already doing this prior to the Biden administration.

Since former President Donald Trump attempted to stifle the app in 2020, the social media platform has been the subject of several divisive news regarding worries about potential threats to national security.

Naturally, TikTok has consistently insisted that the service is risk-free.

Project Texas was created in 2020 with the intention of assuaging American authorities’ concerns about the handling of Americans’ data and acting as a host for TikTok in the U.S. With the subclause that the platform had long stored U.S. user data in its own data centers in the U.S. and Singapore, and those centers would still be used “for backup,” TikTok revealed in June 2022 that all U.S. user traffic was being routed to Oracle.

In order to provide interested parties with a venue where they can learn about the operation of the company’s app and related algorithms, TikTok also established a physical Transparency and Accountability Center.

A U.S. ban on the app, according to TikTok, would have a “negative impact on the free speech rights of millions of Americans” who use the platform. As a result of this most recent threat of a nationwide ban, TikTok stated that it is “disappointed to see this rushed piece of legislation move forward.”

However, Anna Otieno, director of research, strategy, and insights at New Engen, observed that given these rising security concerns, TikTok needs to be more transparent.

But it appears that marketers will continue to turn a blind eye until either real regulation that forces behaviors enters the picture or a sizable portion of Gen Z switches to another trendy social platform. And TikTok will continue to experience a very slow burn as these security worries close in.


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