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Big money spent on TikTok ads in Montana ahead of Senate vote

TikTok App
Posted at 11:08 AM, Mar 31, 2024

BILLINGS — As talk over a national ban on TikTok continues to magnify, so has the enormous amount of advertising and spending as people on both sides of the debate plead their case. Just this week, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on TikTok television ads in Montana, according to ad buy data.

According to TikTok, the application has gained a major following since its debut in 2016, with more than 150 million active users in the United States. However, some argue the social media platform, owned by a Chinese corporation, poses a threat to American users.

For many, TikTok is a source of seemingly endless entertainment.

“I think as far as creating, the one thing that has been great about TikTok is how easy it has been to create a community," said Chance Jordan (@mistajayonline), a Billings-based content creator, on Thursday. "It’s just been a way to connect with people and grow and build a community together."

Chance Jordan
Chance Jordan

Many users have said the app allows them to create a community.

"From other metal artists to other combat veterans. We check in and have our own sense of brotherhood and comradery amongst our group. And also being in active recovery, I have a whole support system of people who are in recovery,” said Rick Baker (@metal_tech406), a Shepherd-based content creator, on Friday. "So it’s not only become just the professional platform that I initially thought it was going to be, but it also has impacted me personally as well."

Rick Baker
Rick Baker

But soon it could all go away.

"To have it be banned, it just kind of feels like all that time and effort is just thrown out the window,” Jordan said. "It’s like your voice is just being stripped."

"It’s very concerning for me," said Baker. "Not to mention all the support system and people I’ve grown alongside with on there."

Montana is considered ‘ground zero’ when it comes to TikTok bans, being the first state to ban the app.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen led the charge on the ban, stating in part, "TikTok poses a threat to every Montanan who has the app on their devices."

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen

While a federal judge blocked SB419, on March 13, the House voted to pass a bill that could lead to the ban of TikTok.

The decision now lies on the Senate.

Millions of dollars are being spent on advertising campaigns in select states including Montana, according to ad buy data. Both sides are attempting to sway senators.

State Armor Action created the following anti-TikTok advertisement:

Anti-TikTok ad by State Armor Action

TikTok created the following pro-TikTok advertisement:

Pro-TikTok ad paid for by TikTok

Montana content creators hope senators consider the good they say the app brings.

"I would just encourage them to listen to the actual voters they’re representing. Because they’d probably be surprised at how many Montanans actually use the platform in a positive way. To showcase our lifestyle, our agriculture, our way of life, our determination,” said Baker. "Being a combat vet myself, and going over and fighting to protect our way of life. This seems like a pretty slippery slope. I think it’s an area they need to tread very lightly on."

Baker owns Metal Tech, a Shepherd metal fabricating business. He is also the founder and operator of the nonprofit ‘Hoodies for Heroes’.

One of Rick's TikToks doing some metal fabrication
One of Rick's TikToks doing some metal fabrication

"I kind of started (creating on TikTok) because my Facebook and Instagram sales had kind of plateaued. I thought, initially, it’d just be a cool editing video platform to carry those over to Facebook and Instagram. And hopefully, create and generate more sales," Baker said. "It’s kind of crazy because now it’s probably 60% of my sales of that stuff comes from TikTok and probably the other 40% from Instagram and Facebook."

Jordan said he found his niche in streaming, and the ability to make money off of his videos is an added bonus.

Jordan streaming with his cat, Mando, peeking around the corner
Jordan streaming with his cat, Mando, peeking around the corner

“It’s definitely starting to grow and I think that’s what makes it fun. Because when you get that first sort of like, someone sends something randomly. You didn’t ask for it, and you get it, and you’re like, ‘Wait a minute. This can actually be a source of income.’ And you start to feel like, ‘I’m responsible.’ Because these people are watching you," Jordan said. "It's a good source of entertainment. People connected a lot and that’s where I really kind of shine the most."

The two find common ground in their stance on TikTok, stating it changed their lives for the better.

Jordan on his TikTok page, @MistaJayOnline
Jordan on his TikTok page, @MistaJayOnline

"I think there’s a lot of focus on the bad. The good side of it is kind of just shoved under the rug," said Jordan. "I’m making people happy by doing something that I enjoy doing."

Only time will tell how lawmakers will vote.

To learn more about the recent House vote on March 13, click here.