Social & Influencers

TikToks could become the new music videos when it comes to product placement

“People are leaning more into the new MTV, which is TikTok,” one exec told us.
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Republic Records

· 5 min read

Miley Cyrus turns up the volume on a Beats Pill and applies eos lip balm in “We Can’t Stop”;  Ariana Grande whips out a Samsung Galaxy Note in the first 5 seconds of “Focus”; Lil Nas X, dressed as a vampire, reaches for an Estée Lauder anti-aging serum in “Rodeo.”

Subtle or not, product placements in music videos are nothing new. But as TikTok continues to be a launching pad for new artists, placement opportunities are arising for both musicians and brands on the platform.

Active viewing

While the agency BEN is perhaps most well known for its product-placement work in movies and shows, Jake Terrell, VP of music and brand partnerships, told us its music vertical has really scaled in the last five years.

Recent examples of BEN music-video integrations include Skyy Vodka in Doja Cat’s “Woman,” and Vush in Cardi B’s “Up.”

Terrell said he often steers clients toward music videos when they have a quick timeline (as movies and TV shows take longer to produce) or want to reach younger audiences.

“When any brand that we’re speaking with, prospective or current client, has a Gen Z or millennial strategy (and most do)…music is a no-brainer,” he said.

Terrell said music-video placements can be great brand opportunities given that 85% of YouTube music video views are watched instead of played in the background on TV and mobile, according to Google. “I think for a long time, until some of that data was released, there was some skepticism around how many people are just setting it and forgetting it,” he said, referencing people using YouTube as a free music-streaming service.

But even with high engagement rates, Cassie Petrey, co-CEO and co-founder of music marketing and management firm Crowd Surf, which, among other things, works with artists like Camila Cabello and Backstreet Boys to help execute brand partnerships, told us that brand demand is moving away from music videos.

“It used to be really easy to do music-video integrations and I would say that’s a much more challenging task now,” she said, adding that payment amounts are “generally pretty low for music-video placements…even for pretty big stars.”

The reason? According to Petrey, “People are leaning more into the new MTV, which is TikTok.”

The new frontier

In addition to handling various marketing responsibilities, Petrey manages Loren Gray, a singer who began her career on TikTok and now has more than 54 million followers there. She said brands are willing to pay five times more to be in one of Gray’s TikToks than in one of her music videos.

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To date, Petrey has worked with Gray on collaborations with brands ranging from Peacock to Redken. She told us she suspects better conversions and data could be behind brands’ apparent preference for TikTok over music videos.


But it doesn’t always have to be one or the other: Terrell said that BEN worked with HP and the rapper Saweetie to create a three-part “de facto music video” for her song “Fast (Motion),” which was posted directly on TikTok.


Terrell noted that while growth at BEN’s music division has historically “been largely driven by music videos,” that could change in the next year or so “given how much the TikTok For Business platform has matured in more recent history.”

Call it an investment

But for every Loren Gray or Saweetie, there are smaller artists emerging on the platform every day, like Katie Gregson-Macleod, who recently went viral for her song “Complex.”

According to Terrell, TikTok has “blurred the line between what is a breakout artist [and] what is a meaningful artist to a brand” and “opened some eyes up” in terms of what kinds of musicians they want to work with. He said BEN has received briefs asking them to identify artists on TikTok, some of whom are not necessarily signed to a record label. For instance, he said BEN recently shared singer’s Emmy Melí’s song “I AM WOMAN” with clients before she was signed.

Oftentimes, he said, partnerships with emerging artists “tend to be more cost-effective, and you sometimes have a better chance of over-delivery on what the brand is expecting because that artist is that enthused about the opportunity.”

Their followers are often enthused, too, according to Petrey: “A decade ago, I think some people would be like, ‘That person’s rich, could they not afford to do that video without that brand integration?’” Whereas today, she said, Gen Z is more accepting.

“I see a lot of people comment like, ‘Yeah, you go girl. Get that bag,’” she said. “I think it’s almost like a rite of passage. It’s like, ‘Wow, if you’re getting brand deals, you’re famous on TikTok.’”

And for those who do get famous on the platform, like Lil Nas X, or just simply go viral, Terrell said brands can find that partnering with artists early on can pay off: “Even if it’s just 15 minutes of fame, it could be one heck of a 15 minutes.”

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