How Oracle could completely screw up TikTok

A marketing guru tells CNET Now What that TikTok balances on a very fine edge.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and the Publicis HealthFront. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
Expertise Automotive technology, smart home, digital health. Credentials
  • 5G Technician, ETA International
Brian Cooley
2 min read

TikTok has announced that its US division will become a partner of Oracle and, while that is short of an outright sale, the risks to TikTok's social credibility when blended with Big Tech are inescapable. The deal will leave brands and their influencers on the platform with a big question: Now what?

"If you think of the (social) platforms that have thrived, it's because they have a core utility that consumers didn't want to let go of" says Nigel Morris, former CEO of global media agency Dentsu Aegis and investor in UK influencer agency Fanbytes, which has made a major shift toward TikTok. "About 18 months ago over 50% of the revenue through Fanbytes was running through Snap. Now over 50% is going through TikTok," says Morris. "TikTok is where Gen Z really wants to be."

Whether Gen Z still wants to be there after TikTok is sold or largely transferred will come down to utility. "The utility of TikTok is that ability young people found to express themselves and quickly build up their own media channel," says Morris. The same can be done on YouTube, but Morris argues that TikTok feels like a private club for Gen Z. "It isn't shared with parents. It isn't shared with other generations." Being part of Oracle, or even spurned suitor Microsoft, doesn't jibe with that generational exclusivity.

Nigel Morris

Nigel Morris, former CEO of the Dentsu Aegis Network and investor in Fanbytes.

Nigel Morris

Authenticity is a coin thrown around like a penny in influencer marketing circles, but Morris says it can't be emphasized too much. "The purity of not just the viewing experience but also the content creation experience" on TikTok will be the acquirer's to fumble with increased commercialization. Hoary old social platforms like Facebook and Twitter migrated to intense commercialization durably, but Vine, Snap and MySpace suggest ephemerality is more common. "It's absolutely buyer beware."

Nigel Morris had many more insights into the future of TikTok that he shared with CNET's Brian Cooley on Now What. Hear them all in the video above.


Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal." There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.