The Science of the Hook: How Brands Can Cultivate Curiosity on TikTok

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The Science of the Hook: How Brands Can Cultivate Curiosity on TikTok


In advertising, it’s not easy to understand what creative works and why. It’s a lot easier to decide who to target and where, so it’s no surprise that marketers focus the majority of their efforts on media targeting while creative remains a mystery. With major platforms like TikTok pushing creative boundaries and suggesting constant content generation at scale, marketers can no longer afford to guess what works creatively. According to the 2023 Creative Impact Nielsen Study, creative accounts for 49% of sales lift contribution, making it imperative for marketers to pay attention to creative and take action. Luckily for them, with the insurgence of creative data they are finally getting access to the tools they need to understand how creative drives performance. 

Creative data is the missing link that connects creative decisions to performance outcomes on TikTok. With this data, marketers can inform creative production and media optimization to improve ROI and reduce media waste. The question is, how do marketers put this data into action? Rather than looking at an entire campaign strategy, or even a full ad, they can start by looking at how they can use creative data to make powerful creative decisions in the first 6 seconds of an ad- what TikTok calls “the hook.” The opening seconds of an ad on TikTok can make or break it. Ads that successfully hook viewers boost engagement by 2x and increase purchase intent by 43%*. 

“TikTok is redefining entertainment and allowing brands the space to be creative and innovative storytellers,” states Moritz Bartsch, Head of Creative Ops for the Americas at TikTok. “Engaging viewers with creative content is crucial for winning audience attention. On TikTok, every brand and community is unique and requires a tailored, informed, and authentic creative approach, underscoring the importance of creative data to optimize accordingly. Informed, creative decisions help drive campaign performance and further connect brands with the TikTok community.”

 So, how do marketers know if they’re putting spend behind the creative with the strongest hook? Or if they’re developing a campaign strategy, how do they brief creative teams? TikTok partnered with VidMob to analyze and validate in-market campaigns to learn more about how advertisers can maximize ad performance by focusing on the creative hook. 

VidMob analyzed 1,678 ads and 7.3 Billion impressions from brands that ran paid video advertising on TikTok between 1/1/2023 and 10/15/2023 to identify key visual elements and creative strategies that successfully boost engagement by 2x and increase purchase intent by 43% in the first six seconds of a Tik Tok ad.

*TikTok Marketing Science Global How to Hook Study [US, UK, GCC] 2023, conducted by Metrixlab

Developing curiosity through personal connection

Nothing hooks users like real people. TikTok creators who are authentic and relatable keep viewers curious and engaged. Ditch the celebrity talent and go for everyday people, as they’re 1.7x more likely to hook a user, whereas ads with celebrity talent (identified through IMDB) have a 13% decrease in 6s view through rate. Using real people goes way beyond just keeping eyeballs on an ad. It impacts a users intent to purchase and feeling of connection with the overall brand too. When the opening seconds of an ad features an everyday person or a relatable creator, the brand is 20% more likely to be seen as meeting the users’ needs. Brands should aim to work with creators who are a natural fit for their category as these ads are 1.5x more likely to hook a user and believe that a creator actually uses the endorsed product is a top motivator for purchase intent. 

Bringing the brand to life

Now that it’s clear real people are the way to go, how can marketers make the hook even stronger? Know how to use that talent. People feel like they are chatting with a friend when creators are up close to the camera. When utilizing talent, direct to camera, talking head style footage works best, having a 14% lift in 2sVTR, as it feels like a casual conversation between friends. By doing this, the hooking power of an ad can instantly increase by 50%. It’s that easy. Even take it one step further and pose a question to the audience. In addition, shoot location is just as important as camera placement. Creative clearly shot outdoors had a 26% decrease in 6sVT compared to average, so make sure talent is shooting in personal spaces, like a #skincarerountine shoot in the creators bathroom, that can be associated back with the brand.

Breakthrough with brand storytelling

Now marketers have their real talent and they know how to get the best shot to land a killer hook. How do they make sure they have strong brand presence in the first 6s to really drive home lower funnel metrics? There is an art to using branding in the opening scenes of an ad. There are a few approaches to take. An easy way to feature a brand is to show the product in action. Creative containing creator product interaction had a 5% increase on 6sVTR and a product shot on its own had a 17% increase. Another way is to make branding a part of the narrative. If branding is incorporated into the storyline and featured as ‘the hero’ of the ad, this can increase hooking power by 1.5x. When the brand is the protagonist, it can increase brand interest (+32%) and purchase intent (+20%) among users. Clearly, it pays to creatively incorporate a brand upfront rather than simply slapping a brand logo on screen, which decreases 6sVTR by 14%.


With creative data, the ingredients are laid out for the perfect hook. It’s all about real people, while creatively integrating brand presence.  

“For social ads in general, but especially for TikTok, the first seconds are critical to engage and connect with audiences,” said Stephanie Page, Global Content Director at L’Orèal. “Getting storytelling right for beauty brands is even more nuanced. With creative insights, we are better informed as to which creative decisions to make to captivate our audiences upfront. Understanding what resonates is key; creative data enables us to know.”

With this 3-part guide, marketers can start taking action towards maximizing their ROI on TikTok by developing and investing in ads with an incredibly engaging hook.

Creative data is flipping advertising on its head by making what used to be hard, easier than ever. “Creative data is becoming essential for marketers to get the most out of media spend and drive stronger performance on TikTok, VidMob technology is making this data accessible for the first time” Cooper Nefsky, Senior Partner Manager, VidMob.


“This document is intended solely for informational purposes. The recipient shall not distribute, exhibit or otherwise use this document for any other purpose. TikTok undertakes no obligation or responsibility to update any of the information contained in this document. Past performance does not guarantee or predict future performance. Please note that you are solely responsible for adherence to all applicable laws, rules, regulations, and policies, when engaging creators to create branded content on TikTok including, without limitation, TikTok’s branded content policy:

Additional Sources: 

  1. TikTok Marketing Science, Value of a View Internal Meta-Analysis, 2021
  2. TikTok Marketing Science Global How to Hook Study [US, UK, GCC] 2023, conducted by Metrixlab
  3. TikTok Marketing Science Global Creators Like Me Study 2021 conducted by Hotspex
  4. TikTok Marketing Science, US Native &. Polished Ads Research 2021, conducted by Realeyes