TikTok’s Adrienne Lahens on How Creators Have Changed the Face of Marketing

Taylor Masket
Taylor Masket
May 16, 2023

We’re beyond thrilled to share our 80th episode of Earned! Conor sits down with Adrienne Lahens, the Global Head of Operations for TikTok’s Creator Marketing Solutions. 


We start today’s episode by diving into Adrienne’s role at TikTok, and she explains what the TikTok Creator Marketplace is, and how it serves creators, brands, agencies, and influencer marketing platforms like CreatorIQ (wink). We then discuss why TikTok invests so heavily in the creator ecosystem, and why Adrienne believes creator-led marketing is “changing the face of marketing” and driving consumer purchasing decisions. Next, Adrienne shares some examples of unexpected yet effective influencer marketing campaigns on TikTok (think Hyundai partnering with pastry chef Amaury Guichon to make a chocolate car), before unpacking the importance of a data-first approach for branded content at scale. We learn why Adrienne joined the TikTok team in 2021, and explore how the platform, with its one billion monthly active users and counting, has maintained its staying power in a world where most new social media sites fail. To close the show, Adrienne shares her predictions for where the social and content landscape is headed, and we’ll give you a hint: it has something to do with creators…

We’ve included a couple of highlights from the episode below, but be sure to check out the full video above, or tune into the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts!

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The following interview has been lightly edited for concision. 

“The creator marketing landscape is a whole ecosystem that’s changing the face of marketing”: Why TikTok Invests Heavily in the Creator Economy

Conor Begley: For your organization at TikTok, what are the KPIs that you think signal success? What are the things that you dive in on and say, if we were to have one or two North Star metrics, what are those? 

Adrienne Lahens: Our North Star is, how can we grow the creator marketing investment on TikTok to help creators survive and thrive in the platform, and enrich the whole ecosystem in the process? TikTok has over 800,000 creators in the [TikTok Creator Marketplace, “TTCM”]. We're also serving 24 markets around the globe, and we have brands across every vertical that are actively engaging with creators as well as through our partner ecosystem. And at TikTok with the creator marketplace, we are serving creators, brands, agencies, and influencer marketing platforms like CreatorIQ through our API, and we're also investing in a variety of solutions to help talent managers and talent agents through TTCM. So our KPIs are really centered around that ecosystem, and ensuring that TTCM can help solve some of the industry's biggest challenges.

Something that's important to remember today is that the creator marketing landscape is a whole ecosystem that's changing the face of marketing. To be an effective marketer today, you really need to focus on how to be a great storyteller, and how to connect natively and authentically with your consumers. Creators have really changed the voice and tone of what effective marketing looks like today.

Advertising is much more engaging and entertaining than it ever has been before. And the great thing about partnering with creators and investing in creator marketing is that as a brand, you don't need to master the messaging anymore. You can tell a creator what you’re looking to achieve. You could tell 50 creators what you're looking to achieve at scale, and they can tell that story on your behalf in a way that will deeply resonate with their communities. And that really is the beauty of creator marketing, and brands who are partnering with creators are seeing really tremendous results. 

We're seeing that brands who are partnering with creators are experiencing a 26% lift in brand favorability, a 22% lift in purchase intent, and 71% of TikTok users say that a creator's authenticity is what motivates them to purchase from a brand. So it is a full funnel strategy, top of funnel, middle funnel, all the way down to the purchase as well.

“Creator marketing is going to be synonymous with marketing”: Adrienne Lahens’ Predictions for how the Social and Content Landscape will Evolve

Conor Begley: Knowing the social and content landscape as deeply as you do, I'd be curious where you see it going in five, maybe 10 years. How do you see it evolving and changing over time?

Adrienne Lahens: Well you said something really interesting earlier, Conor, about how creators can be that center point, and all of the other aspects of your marketing strategy can leverage creators as that central component. That's maybe a very common idea for you and me, who work in this space and who have been living and breathing in this space for 15 plus years, but that's not necessarily where the whole industry is today. And I think that we can get there in the next few years, and I’m personally really excited about the prospect of that. 

And then if you think about the total addressable market, not even for the whole creator economy, but just for influencer marketing as a category, we're talking about 10x growth in the next few years. I think it's $14 billion globally, projected as of 2022. It's projected to be $143 billion by 2023. So we are in the first inning. All of the stuff we're talking about today, in just a couple years it's going to feel like we were dinosaurs. That's really exciting. 

Creator marketing, as far as I'm concerned, is just going to be synonymous with marketing. Creator marketing used to be like, “why should I do that,” to like, “why should I not do that,” to now, “how can my marketing strategy live without it? And how can that be the centerpiece?” So I think that creators are going to continue to infiltrate every single aspect of brands’ visual aesthetic and broader marketing approach. 

At the same time, creator marketing is still quite operationally intensive, and there's a lot of tactical and technical problems to solve in terms of continuing to remove a lot of the friction at every step in the process, especially on a platform like TikTok. A lot of brands are looking for, “How can I create content quickly? How can I create content more easily?” So we need to make that process easier for marketers, and make creators the center of that solution. In order for us to scale the creator marketing industry 10x, 100x in the future, the space does need to become a bit more automated, more data driven.

Matchmaking is going to get a whole lot better, performance and measurement is going to be much more easy to attribute to specific creators, specific assets. Pricing is a big problem that needs to be worked out, helping to create a little bit more standardization in terms of the creators rates and how creators should think about their rates. A lot of education needs to happen on that end. I think we've come a really long way, but in terms of the space, I think we're also really early in this journey, and I’m looking forward to what the future will hold.

Keep up with new episodes of Earned by following the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, or subscribing to our YouTube channel. To catch up on our previous episodes, featuring leaders from brands like Revolve, K18, Instagram, and Roblox, visit our Earned Podcast page.