Morning Brew - ☕ Let’s talk about it

All eyes on TikTok.
March 24, 2023

Marketing Brew

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Happy Friday. First it was Wendy’s selling its own version of the snack wrap, now Dunkin’ is selling breakfast tacos. What’s next, Taco Bell selling burgers?

In today’s edition:

—Katie Hicks, Ryan Barwick, Jasmine Sheena, Minda Smiley


TikTok on the clock, but the party might stop

TikTok CEO at testimony Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Thursday, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee regarding the app’s privacy and data practices, its potential impact on kids, and its relationship with the Chinese government, in light of a potential ban proposed by the Biden administration earlier this month.

As the Washington Post noted, Chew faced an “especially combative grilling” on questions ranging from content censorship to national security concerns. For the most part, Chew used the time he was given in the hearing to emphasize the app’s safety features for kids, refute claims about its connection to the Chinese government, and discuss its plans to protect Americans’ data privacy with Project Texas.

Ahead of the hearing, TikTok went full-throttle in promoting its brand image:

  • Chew introduced himself on TikTok to announce the platform had reached 150 million monthly active users in the US, while also encouraging users to share what they love about the platform to share with lawmakers.
  • At the same time, TikTok ran ads around DC and in popular Beltway outlets like Politico, Axios, and the Washington Post, touting its safety commitments.
  • It also updated its policies around misinformation on topics like climate change and AI.

In the end, Chew’s testimony—combined with TikTok’s marketing efforts—may not have been enough to change lawmakers’ minds. During the hearing, lawmakers like Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) made references to the bipartisan nature of the committee.

What’s next: At this point, it’s unclear whether ByteDance will look to sell TikTok to avoid a potential ban or what a ban would look like if it does not (but Mark Zuckerberg is probably feeling pretty good). Before the hearing, the Chinese government said it was “resolutely opposed” to a sale of TikTok.

Concerns surrounding TikTok could spur Congress to act on national privacy legislation, specifically the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, a bill that has bipartisan support.—KH



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Talking ’Tok

TikTok lock ban bad Francis Scialabba

It seems as though all eyes have been on TikTok this week thanks to talks of a potential nationwide ban and its CEO’s testimony in front of Congress on Thursday.

We’ve been talking to marketers this week to get their thoughts on how they’re navigating the possibility of a ban, which platforms might benefit, and what they thought of the testimony. Read what they had to say below—and email us to let us know what you’re thinking.

Responses have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Joshua Lowcock, global chief media officer at UM: It did not feel like a discovery hearing but rather an airing of concerns that went beyond data and national security to also include S230 and content moderation. Some of the issues raised were not unique to TikTok. There were moments that it feels like TikTok stumbled and/or failed to land its message and failed to give decisive categorical yes-no answers that would have helped its cause. There is little from the hearing that suggests that there will be continued momentum towards some sort of restriction or regulation that adversely impacts TikTok.

Dona J. Fraser, SVP, privacy initiatives, BBB National Programs: Today’s hearing displayed the need for more education and awareness about the data-privacy practices undertaken by companies and advertisers regarding the data they collect about teens on TikTok and other social platforms. It serves as a reminder that there is an urgent need for a comprehensive data-privacy law.

Read more here.JS, RB, MS



Yes we Cannes

flags in the sky at Cannes Lions Cannes Lions via Giphy

We’re about three months away from Cannes Lions, the industry’s annual trek to the south of France. Last week, we asked if you care about what happens at the festival, and results were pretty much split.

For those of you who do care, here’s what we know is happening so far:

  • The festival’s organizers have added yet another award category: Cannes Senior Lions. It will recognize campaigns created by “industry executives who are 50 years or older,” per MediaPost.
  • Last week, Cannes Lions also announced a campaign in partnership with the Black British Network. Called Black Out 2023, the campaign is a “callout to organizations connected to the marketing and creative industries to ensure the presence of Black talent at the largest industry gathering in the world.”
  • According to Adweek, “for the first time this year, the organizers are requesting information on the carbon footprint and sustainability impact of each creative submission.”

This week’s poll: If you work in social, are you rethinking your approach to TikTok right now, or are you in wait-and-see mode?

Rethinking approach
🟢 Wait-and-see mode



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  • Utah became the first state to pass a law restricting minors’ social media use.
  • Twitter said it will begin removing “legacy” blue checkmarks next week.
  • Twitter’s “relationship with advertisers continues to suffer,” according to ad execs who spoke to Vox.
  • Snap is enabling retailers to use its AR shopping tools outside of its own app.


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Written by Katie Hicks, Jasmine Sheena, Ryan Barwick, and Minda Smiley

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