Ever since the Super Bowl, all eyes have been on Oreo during major tent-pole events as we waited for them to deliver more real-time Twitter marketing. Audiences were surprised and delighted by the company’s initial, simple tweet, which was really nothing more than an existing piece of art with some clever copy added in. Since Oreo’s success with real-time Twitter advertising, brands and agencies have been trying to capture the magic of “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark”—but though many have tried, few have succeeded. So what was it about that otherwise ordinary and forgettable tweet that took the world by storm?

First, let’s take a look at a few attempts at branded, real-time event publishing on Twitter since Oreo struck gold. There have been several big events since the Super Bowl, with many real-time Twitter advertisements that just didn’t seem to pack the same punch as Oreo’s tweet. At the Oscars, Oscar Mayer (among others, Oreo included) threw its hat into the ring by goofing on itself with this failed attempt:

And more recently, Oreo saw an opportunity to make a second run at it with the world buzzing about the pending birth of the royal baby. While this try was clever and well timed, it didn’t have the same magic as dunking in the dark.

One of the key components in real-time Twitter advertising is the element of surprise—finding your audience and hitting them with something completely unexpected and awesome. This is exactly where Oreo’s Super Bowl tweet shone and many others since then have fallen. Oreo’s reaction to the blackout was real and shareable to its audience because we all knew that nobody could have predicted the power outage (now, if Bane had dropped onto the gridiron, as we all expected, maybe we’d be singing a different tune right now). In contrast, the Oscars are an annual event that everyone and their mother is aware of, and as The Daily Show’s John Oliver put it, the news of the royal baby had been like a “news screensaver” for a whole week. It was hardly the sort of subject matter that would delight and surprise Oreo’s audiences.

Brands, take note: You can try to be clever in real time; you can try to capture the magic. But you will never live up to Oreo’s success unless you wait for exactly the right moment: the moment that nobody in the whole world expects during a major tent-pole event. The moment when Kanye West storms onstage during the VMAs, when Miguel crashes into an adoring fan’s head during his performance at the Billboard Music Awards. The point is, wait for the moment that nobody knows is coming; and when it happens, be quick on your feet and deliver to your audience a strategic, witty, unexpected, surprising and delightful message. That is how you capture the magic of dunking in the dark.

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