TikTok, the latest app-based social media fad beloved by digital natives and incompetent middle-aged dancers has opened an Australian office and announced several key executives hires.

While its star is rising rapidly, the Chinese based company’s history is not without controversy.  According to Wikipedia, “In December 2019, the United States Navy as well as the U.S. Army banned TikTok from all government-issued devices. The Transportation Security Administration also prohibited its personnel from posting on the platform for outreach purposes.”

In March, two US Senators Senators Josh Hawley and Rick Scott introduced a bill banning its use on by Federal employees on government-issued phones.

It was also earlier banned in Indonesia with the government claiming it promulgated “pornography, inappropriate content, and blasphemy.”

Of course, if its younger audience is even aware of these issues, they probably just enhance its cachet.

As to how well it’s doing in Australia building an audience, it’s hard to know. The company declined our request to provide download or instal numbers, referring us to a blog on SensorTower from April which references a global figure of 2 billion downloads.

Source: SensorTower

Over the past 18 months, TikTok has hired General Managers in the US, UK, India, Japan, and Canada.

With the appointment of a General Manager and expansion of the local team in Australia, the company says this further reinforces its commitment to delivering a strong local product experience that continuously creates value for local business communities and creators.

Its new local team includes former Google and YouTube executive, Lee Hunter, joining as General Manager for TikTok Australia alongside former Google executive, Brett Armstrong, as General Manager for Global Business Solutions in Australia.

Hunter will lead a team of experts for TikTok based in Sydney, with a focus on overseeing the implementation of safety policies and resources, as well as driving growth, partnerships, and the local product experience.

Hunter joins Brett Armstrong, General Manager of Global Business Solutions, who oversees the commercial business and focuses on brand partnerships, client solutions, business marketing, and sales operations. Armstrong previously was at Google where he led as Country Manager for New Zealand and Head of Media Agencies ANZ.

Other executives on the Australia team include Brent Thomas as Director of Public Policy for Australia, leading engagement with policy and NGO stakeholders to maintain industry-leading standards in safety and content, and Arjun Narayan Bettadapur Manjunath as Head of Trust & Safety, leading TikTok’s dedicated APAC team based in Singapore.

Vanessa Pappas, General Manager of TikTok US overseeing North America and ANZ, said: “As we continue to build a positive and safe environment for users, our focus is on hiring the right local talent and strengthening our local leadership team to best support the Australian TikTok community.”

According to Hunter said: “I love that TikTok has helped bring Australian communities together when we’ve needed it most, whether it’s having fun at home, sharing how we’re feeling, or expressing ideas and messages that need to be heard. I’m excited to build on this outpouring of positive, diverse, and creative content, lead our growing local team, and support our brilliant community of Australian users, creators, and partners.”

Armstrong meanwhile said: “ We’ve got some fantastic campaigns underway, with results exceeding expectations already, so I’m really looking forward to growing our business offering from strength to strength locally.”

As well as continuing to invest in its local team and tools to promote a positive and safe environment for its Australian users, TikTok has committed to supporting communities affected by COVID-19 both globally and in Australia. As part of its financial support for relief efforts, today TikTok announced a $3 million AUD donation to The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity.

The company says it has developed a thriving and diverse community in Australia by offering a unique home for creative expression combined with various local programs such as the livestream series #HappyAtHome, #NatureAtHome, #HeapsGood and #LearnOnTikTok supporting creators’ development.

Viral content such as;

has made its way to every home in Australia. Australian brands such as Optus, Suncorp and Milo have also seen success in engaging audiences on TikTok as the app continues to transcend sectors with diverse and creative content.

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