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Ad execs tout TikTok’s benefits for businesses in cringeworthy video

Bosses at top advertising firms are facing heat over a video in which they praised TikTok in a slew of gags and comic vignettes just days after Congress passed a bill that would force a sale or ban of the China-owned app.

The tone-deaf, 75-second video circulating on LinkedIn since Saturday shows executives from Havas, IPG Mediabrands, Horizon Media, Publicis Group, GroupM and dentsu — with each making pitches and cracking jokes on why using TikTok is the key to scaling your brands success.

In one segment, IPG Mediabrands Dani Benowitz pretended to be distracted by her phone while being filmed, calling audience engagement TikToks superpower.

Of course we know TikTok is more than Gen Z — how else would do you explain that Im always bawling my eyes out over heartwarming dog videos? said Publicis Media CIO Shelby Saville before fake-crying into a tissue.

Were in media, of course discovery on TikTok made me buy 50 transparent collapsible shoeboxes, Havas CEO Greg James said in yet another segment.

The video looked badly timed given the push in Washington to crack down on TikTok over national security concerns. Last month, President Biden signed a bipartisan bill that would force its Beijing-based parent ByteDance to sell within a year or face a total US ban.

None of the executives who participated in the video were compensated, according to TikTok.

Critics noted that the firms doubled down on TikTok even as US-based platforms — including traditional news outlets and Elon Musk-owned X — face a revenue crunch from lost advertising revenue.

At a time where ad execs are falling over themselves to pull their contracts from social media platforms like X it seems rather hypocritical that theyre jumping at the opportunity to strengthen ties to TikTok, said Nathan Leamer, a former FCC policy adviser and CEO of Fixed Gear Strategies.

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Specifically with a ticking shot clock on the app’s forced divestiture, why would any marketing professional be so oblivious as to lean into the data concerns or manipulation of the app’s algorithm?” Leamer added.

Representatives for the media firms did not immediately return requests for comment.

When asked to comment on criticism of the ad executives’ participation in the video, a TikTok spokesperson declined to weigh in.

“Surely, we cannot be talking about the same video,” the TikTok spokesperson said in a statement.

Production on the video took place before, during and after Congress moved to pass the divestiture bill and participants were aware of when the video was set to be published, the company added — leaving some media insiders wondering what the ad execs were thinking.

Normally something like this would get zero attention… theres nothing unusual about a media executive extolling the virtues of a particular platform, one media executive told The Post. However, with the political background, it is not the right time for this.

Critics of TikTok have warned that the app could be used as a spying and information weapon for the Chinese Communist Party potentially fueling everything from election interference to pro-terrorist propaganda and a teen mental health crisis.

TikTok has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and touted its efforts to build a safe and secure platform for American users. The app has also tried to rally the public to oppose the sale-or-ban bill by touting its sizable American user base and its impact on the US economy the same points that were emphasized  in the LinkedIn video.

In March, TikTok published an economic impact study from Oxford Economics that said the app had contributed $24.2 billion to the US economy in 2023 through its collaborations with small and medium-sized businesses.

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew has argued that the legislation would take billions of dollars out of the pockets of creators in small businesses and put more than 300,000 American jobs at risk if it takes effect.

The company has vowed to fight the legislation in court.

As of Monday afternoon, the video had garnered 400 reactions since it was posted. The TikTok For Business LinkedIn account has nearly 275,000 followers.

The video was another sign that TikTok is leveraging US companies to advance the interests of the Chinese Communist Party, according to Michael Sobolik, senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.

That’s the crux of Beijing’s malign influence within America: using American voices to weaken American democracy, Sobolik said. That’s what TikTok is: a CCP weapon of disinformation to divide US voters and political groups.

American media firms should think twice before playing the CCP’s insidious game, Sobolik added. It may help boost sales today, but it could irreparably damage America tomorrow.”

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