Advertisers Flocked to TikTok as It Became the Most Popular App on the Planet, Because of Course They Did

The absence of clear understanding of App Tracking Transparency’s material effect has produced a cottage industry of writers explaining how it is responsible for all kinds of trends in advertising. Some of those theories are more believable than others; here is an example of the latter kind.

Thomas Germain, Gizmodo, with an excellent single-paragraph summary of his thesis:

ATT kneecapped the Facebook ad targeting systems, motivating advertisers to look for new places to spend their money. Even though ATT hurt TikTok in the same ways, the short-form video app was in the perfect position to offer an alternative to Meta: its popularity was exploding, its newness meant ad prices were low, and it had designed novel advertising models built for the new privacy world order.

So as the most compelling demographic for advertisers flocked to TikTok, the cool new social app, advertising dollars followed suit? Well, I am shocked.

When I read this kind of story, I always wonder the counterfactual: would the overall thrust of the story still make sense if App Tracking Transparency were not in the picture? In this case, it is hard to see how spending would not be directed toward TikTok regardless of what was happening over at Meta’s side, where usage has stagnated especially among the audiences most desired by advertisers. Perhaps App Tracking Transparency added an extra sprinkle of salt in the wound, but all the qualifiers and acknowledgements in Germain’s article make it hard to believe it is of even tertiary relevance to TikTok’s fortunes.