TikTok Is Ruining Everything

What happens when a mobile app becomes so prevalent that its app-specific formats and practices bleed into our non-app safe spaces? Spoiler alert: it’s not good.

TikTok’s influence is massive. You know that, I know that… everyone knows that. It’s been all over the news for years now, for a plethora of reasons like: 

  • Fears over international spying
  • Embarrassing dance trends
  • Celebration as a mental health savior for teens and adolescents
  • Condemnation as a breeding ground for mental health crises for teens and adolescents
  • Accusations of creating Tourette’s-like behavior in young girls with no other history or Tourette’s Syndrome
  • Being home to advice doled out by individuals who are hardly able to brush their own teeth in the morning
  • Dogs that sometimes lose their bones in their sleep  

Whether good or bad, it’s got a little bit of everything for everyone. That’s what has helped grow the platform into the juggernaut it is today.  

Because of its reach and massive growth in recent years, it’s become the platform of choice for any influencer who’s ever influenced, creating a vicious cycle of overexposure that further hurls the formats and hallmarks of TikTok deeper into the zeitgeist. That’s where the true damage is done.

Beyond possibly destroying the children, here’s a look at what else TikTok is (indirectly) ruining right before our eyes thanks to out-of-touch traditional players trying to capitalize on social media trends. 

Advertising Formats

I’m old enough to remember the days of fighting with people to turn their freaking phones to landscape mode when they film a video. It was a battle almost won… until TikTok. All that hard work has been undone, and for what? A tall, skinny, confining and claustrophobic video experience that I fully reject. 

I get that TikTok is a phone app, and thus the format makes reasonable sense in that setting. But here’s the deal: everyone is starting to do this – even big companies, and they aren’t being mindful of what devices the content is served to. Do they even know that their tall skinnies are showing on widescreen smart TVs? With the massive transition from cable subscribers to streamers, OTT’s having a moment. Unfortunately, the moment is littered with ads that render like an unwatchable mistake on a traditional 16×9 display.  

Advertising Beauty

Not only have the ad formats lost the grandeur of widescreen, production quality is intentionally being tanked. Everyone’s trying to capitalize on this whole casual “just thought I’d turn my phone on and give y’all some advice” format, with a phone held at arm’s-length and aimed straight up their nose.  This isn’t why I’m watching TV. I’m watching TV to escape the world that’s burning down around me – I want to see something beautiful, something compelling. I don’t want to see some yokel recessing their chin into their neck because their arm is too short to hold their phone a proper distance from themselves. 

I get that production quality can be a burden and an obstacle, especially for smaller companies – I can even see an argument in the positive for TikTok helping to break down that barrier. What’s inexcusable, in my mind, is what’s naturally sacrificed alongside beauty with the informal format:

Advertising Artistry

As the saying goes: 3 strikes, you’re out! I can squint and find reason for the phone-centric portrait format. I can try to ignore the indecency of the selfie ad and instead focus on the freedom to create lower-fi ads for budget-bound businesses. But the 3rd trait that often goes hand in hand with the first two offenses turn TikTok-style ads (that display in more transitional placements) into the stuff of nightmares: a complete lack of human emotion, cleverness or creativity. 

Having to watch someone stumble over their indelicate, brute-force message about the niche money-saving app they’ve created while pointing the camera up their nose/t-shirt sleeve while filling only a small sliver of my TV screen feels like nails on a chalkboard. There’s no humor, no tug on the heart strings, no sense of exhilaration or possibilities – just the carnage of half-hearted opportunism. 

Bring me back to the days of Volvo ruining my day for the right reasons

The Tik Toks For Thee

It’s clear that TikTok is playing a role in ruining our lives, whether you want to argue that the role is direct or simply influential.  But that’s not to say businesses shouldn’t develop a dedicated TikTok strategy. It’s become obvious that failure to recognize, account for, and address the behemoth that is TikTok could lead to certain marketing death for companies who are viewing the platform as a passing fad. Unless the government or app stores shut it down, it’s real and it’s spectacular (from a reach and influence perspective, anyway). Advertisers and companies need to strategize and learn ways to leverage TikTok, but for the love of God: don’t take those learnings to the big screen. 

Is this the end of the road for the things we hold dear, or can we rebel against the vapid hellscape this pernicious app has brought into our non-app, IRL lives? I, for one, am committed to trying. I refuse to succumb to the pressures of portrait-mode, informal, rehearsed “real talk” in my traditional media channels. I will go down with the cinematic ship. 

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