ByteDance pulls TikTok representation from InMobi in Pakistan

Effective immediately, ByteDance has asked InMobi to pause all B2B selling for TikTok in Pakistan, leaving advertisers stranded after finally getting approvals to do so.

Advertisers and advertising agencies in Pakistan that want to sponsor branded hashtag challenges on TikTok will no longer be able to do so for at least one month. This comes with ByteDance pulling InMobi from being a sales partner in the Pakistan market. The social selling team at InMobi, which sells ad products to marketers on behalf of nearly one hundred thousand up & coming apps and platforms, has been ordered to halt all TikTok sales activities with regards to Pakistan.

InMobi is an Indian global mobile advertising technology company that works with thousands of apps worldwide to bring them advertising revenue. Sources at InMobi said that the business model of TikTok does not support external ads placement from ad networks or even Google AdMob. That being the case, the team at InMobi was asked ad nauseam by advertisers and agencies in Pakistan to secure access to TikTok ad products for them.

Of all the ad products on the platform, InMobi was granted permission to sell the branded hashtag challenge to advertisers in Pakistan, which is priced at a $50,000 flat fee and reaches an estimated 30 million impressions over the course of 12 days. The challenge was availed primarily by consumer electronics businesses in Pakistan aiming for mass targeting.

The break from InMobi

Sources at ByteDance told Profit that the reason for this stoppage is the initiation of a search for a local reseller in Pakistan, similar to the Authorised Sales Partner program by Facebook which was awarded to DialZero in May 2020. In line with sales partnership agreements by advertising technology companies worldwide, the reseller for TikTok in Pakistan will likely be an independently owned advertising or media buying agency with no ties to global network agency holding groups, led by a seasoned executive that is considered to be the leading authority in social media marketing, digital advertising, and business diversification.

The shortlisted digital agencies, according to a source at ByteDance, are Brainchild Communications Pakistan, East River, JVentures, JackOfDigital, The Brand Crew, and three more independently owned companies, primarily being evaluated based on the in-market expertise of the owner. The winning agency will be expected to roll out TikTok ad products and capture advertiser interest in reaching the nearly 30 million app users in Pakistan. 

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A source at ByteDance told Profit that the independent agency that wins the reseller remit from ByteDance in Pakistan, will have access to additional ad formats and products, such as reservation ads, the branded hashtag challenge, and auction ads. These ads are further classified as a brand takeover, in-feed ads, and a branded effect – wherein a sponsor can add augmented reality filters similar to Snapchat.

TikTok vs the Google/Facebook duopoly

According to data from App Annie, TikTok was the second most downloaded app in the world on the App Store and Google Play. The 2019 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report by Rival IQ said that the engagement rate on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter is 8%, 1.6%, 0.09%, and 0.048% respectively. The short-form mobile video platform has B2B evangelists in Pakistan for this reason.

In the Pakistan market, the app will also compete with Dubsmash by Mobile Motion GmbH, Reels by Facebook, and Likee by Bigo Technology – which recently launched an office in Islamabad in the same week its flagship app was banned by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority. The ban on Bigo Live was due to a failure in moderating and deleting content deemed obscene and vulgar, a charge TikTok is currently accused of too by some advertisers and advertising agencies in Pakistan.

Addressing concerns of walled gardens measuring advertising effectiveness, a pitch deck for TikTok claims to work with 13 third-party measurement tools such as Sizmek, AppsFlyer, Adjust, AdForm, and many more to help advertisers measure campaigns and access transparent data analytics.

TikTok in Pakistan

“Brands in Pakistan haven’t explored [TikTok] much due to the nature of products and our preconceived notions about associating platforms and the type of content with one’s social standing and stature,” said Suboorah Rizwani, co-founder of ViralManjan. “[It] might not be useful for all brands, but for some, it can do wonders if utilized wisely. A lot of foreign brands have used influencers and experimented with different types of content. We can’t ignore the platform, the shift in consumer mindset and habits can already be seen.”

When ByteDance granted InMobi reseller rights in Pakistan, it did so for the $50,000 branded hashtag challenge, which has been used by Tecno Mobile, Haier Pakistan, OPPO Pakistan, and Honor Mobile, all initially served by the ByteDance sales team for TikTok based in China with some support from InMobi in Pakistan. However, most marketers choose a different path.

“We recommend TikTok influencers as a part of our overall marketing strategy when it makes sense for the target group,” said Nida Haider, managing partner at IAL Saatchi & Saatchi. “Even the [government of Pakistan] seemed to recognize the value of TikTok by inviting [content creators] to raise awareness about the spread of COVID-19. [The new generation] celebrates authenticity so social video platforms like TikTok that are built on the individual discovery and authentic content will continue to be successful.”

An upcoming and detailed report from Profit will highlight the seven factors holding back advertisers and agencies – both creative and media – from working with TikTok on a purely commercial basis, without circumventing TikTok with direct content creator deals. Speaking to Profit, some brand marketers shared that they have regional restrictions barring them from working with ByteDance as a whole. In light of this, multiple digital and public relations agencies in Pakistan lead content creator outreach for TikTok, roping in artists to be involved in campaigns, essentially gaming the hashtag challenge without paying the hefty $50,000 flat fee.

“The number of creators that are consistently reaching over 50pc of their total audience is astounding and completely unparalleled,” said Saif Ali, a digital account director at Empact Activation Services. “Further, almost all of them seem to maintain an engagement rate of above 10pc, which clearly negates any of the naysayers who claim that TikTok is feeding everyone bot followers. Nevertheless, marketers require authoritative first-party and ideally third-party data to assuage their concerns.”

Babar Khan Javed
Babar Khan Javed
Babar Khan Javed covers the advertising industry and marketing function in Pakistan for Profit. He can be reached on [email protected] with details about media, creative, and digital briefs, future projects, management changes, client wins or losses, and everything in between.


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