Advertising 5 Min Read

TikTok, Ocean Spray, and Seizing a Viral Moment the Right Way

Written by Tim Edmundson

When Nathan Apodaca’s car broke down on his way to work, he was prepared for that scenario. He almost certainly wasn’t prepared for what was to follow. 

“My car, it just shuts off sometimes,” he said in an interview with TMZ. “The battery, I don’t know what it is, just shuts off. I always have my longboard in there, in case I run out of gas or something.”

So he hopped on his board, grabbed a bottle of Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice, and skated his way into viral video stardom. On a whim he recorded himself lip syncing to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” and drinking his juice. He posted the video to his TikTok account without thinking much of it, and no sooner did he punch in at work had the video amassed millions of views. 

For whatever secret ingredient exists for viral content, Apodaca’s TikTok video had plenty. It caught on like wildfire, spawning countless imitators and eventually resulting in Fleetwood Mac’s own Mick Fleetwood posting his own version (in fact, he created a TikTok just to post it).  

What Apodaca had accidentally done was create a mini-cultural moment. One that was simple, carefree, and fun—and also one that both TikTok and Ocean Spray seized and amplified to great results. So what’s the lesson to be learned for marketers here? 

TikTok Amplified the Moment

TikTok didn’t let this naturally fun and organic moment go to waste. Knowing they had a viral hit live on their platform, they looked for a way to tap into that excitement and share a bit of what makes TikTok special. But they needed to be quick since these moments can come and go in an instant. 

Normally, you wouldn’t think “TV ad” and “quick turnaround time,” but that’s exactly the approach TikTok took. The ad featured Apodaca’s original video, along with copycats’ versions and Mick Fleetwood’s rendition (you can see it here). The quick turnaround time allowed them to capitalize on the mini-cultural moment, and launch their ads across linear and Connected TV during marquee television events like the MLB playoffs and NBA finals. 

“Culture moves fast. If you blink, you’ll miss it,” said Nick Tran, TikTok’s Head of Global Marketing in a LinkedIn post. “Incredibly grateful for our team and partners who didn’t hesitate to pull this off in record time. Special shoutout to our creator community, especially Nathan Apodaca and Mick Fleetwood, for inspiring us each day and to Ocean Spray for diving in with us.” 

TV advertising used to be a process of phone calls, emails, working with agencies and media buyers. Now, all it takes is uploading creative to a Connected TV ad platform, selecting your audience, and clicking “launch.”

This quick turnaround time wouldn’t be possible a few years ago. It speaks to the importance of ad technology and solutions that allow for quick campaign spin-up time. Connected TV allows for that as it’s very similar to launching an ad campaign on social—making it very easy to go live (and kudos to TikTok for also bringing the ad live to linear television with similar expediency, which is much more challenging). By leveraging those tools, TikTok was able to amplify a viral moment and parlay it into a great brand awareness campaign. 

Ocean Spray Embraced the Moment

Ocean Spray leaned into the moment as well, by not only signing off on TikTok’s ad (which has generated more brand awareness for Ocean Spray than anything that recently comes to mind) but by tapping into the feel-good nature of the story and adding a bit of generosity to the mix. 

Nathan Apodaca’s love of cranberry juice paid off in a big way when Ocean Spray gifted him a brand new truck—thus replacing the one that broke down and started this whole story. It was a great move that not only helped out their unlikely brand ambassador, but kept the news cycle going and added a little more lifetime to their viral moment.

Seizing It the Right Way

There’s no proven formula for viral content. Brands in the digital age have repeatedly tried to capture that lightning in a bottle, with mixed results. Some recent attempts deploying provocative campaigns meant to grab attention and shareability have backfired spectacularly. Trying to force a viral campaign can lead to ruin. 

On the flip side, TikTok and Ocean Spray took an organic moment and parlayed it into successful advertising. The key word there being “organic.” It wasn’t forced or astroturfed, but rather they seized on something that was already popular and fun that had a natural fit for their brands. And in TikTok’s case, they combined a sense of urgency with the ad tech tools at their disposal to quickly amplify the moment to celebrate their brand.