TikTok is a popular word in Pakistan, known to almost everyone. It has divided the country, with half of the population adoring it and the other half hating it. From a global perspective, the app even ‘ticked off’ former President Donald Trump, who went as far as to say it was a threat to the western world. So you can either love or hate TikTok, but you cannot ignore it.
Founded by Chinese Tech ByteDance, the app has gained massive popularity around the globe, Pakistan included. It has provided everyone with the opportunity to become ‘famous’; an equal opportunity platform for everyone to showcase their talents. What is more, TikTokers have brought stiff competition to influencers who had previously relied on film making equipment and editing techniques to make their mark.
TikTok has been banned three times in Pakistan for its “immoral and unethical” content. "Mela content" is a phrase I often hear from people when they speak about the app.
I am involved in fashion shoots all year long and I would have earned thousands of rupees had I been given one rupee for every time a model made a disgusted face whenever I mentioned I had to take a video for the brand’s TikTok profile.
Immorality is a strange topic in Pakistan for multiple reasons. Zindagi Tamasha was banned for being controversial, Saba Qamar was criticised for dancing at a place of worship and recently, models were shamed for their wardrobe choices at the Hum Style Awards. Yet, Instagram is full of sultry photoshoots of Pakistani fashion models and no one bats an eye.
Let me stress – I am not taking sides, or commenting on what is controversial and what is not. I am merely pointing out the fact that in Pakistan the same thing done by two different people on two different platforms and at two different times is likely to be looked upon very differently. An influencer dancing on TikTok to a Punjabi song would be perceived differently from another influencer dancing to a Justin Bieber song.
While I know a lot of creatives who chirped in excitement every time TikTok was banned (they will not have to work on digital amplification ideas for the app), a lot of brands in Pakistan have finally acknowledged the viability of TikTok and some have even made it part of their content strategy - for example, Vivo Pakistan, Outfitters and my own employer, NDURE.
While it would not surprise me if another ban is imposed on TikTok in the future, I will conclude the same way I started it. Love it or hate it, you cannot ignore TikTok.
Muneeb Akram is an in-house creative at NDURE.