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Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards

Dotdash Meredith x Starbucks “Pumpkin Like It’s 2003”

Entered in TikTok Partnership


Starbucks and SPARK (Starbucks’ media agency) wanted to drive buzz and awareness around the 20th birthday of the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Their number-one ask? To create a splashy piece of content showcasing the PSL in a way that would appeal to both the drink’s original fan base as well as younger, Y2K-obsessed Gen Z consumers — the next generation of PSL drinkers.

Strategy and Execution

What better way to say “happy birthday” than with a song? PEOPLE joined forces with Starbucks and SPARK to celebrate the Pumpkin Spice Latte’s 20th birthday, creating an original TikTok music video–and the ultimate birthday sound–with Grammy-award-winning artist Ashanti.

Together, we leveraged a talent and storyline that took fans back to the early aughts, when the PSL was first created. Ashanti was the perfect star for this collaboration — her sophomore album, Chapter II, was released in 2003, the same year the PSL was launched. Our video featured original lyrics, music, and composition, mixed with throwback vocal moments from Ashanti’s 2003 hit “Rock Wit U (Awww Baby).

We were working with a limited budget and wanted our music video to really evoke the upbeat, high-production  style of 2003 (backup dancers, elaborate sets) while staying true to the TikTok platform in 2023. By necessity, we were resourceful with set design and strategic prop styling. We shot in one studio but created four different “worlds” within it: the present-day bedroom scene where our storyline began; a neon light wall;  a wall of speakers (a 2000s classic); and an autumn world, a visual nod to the PSL’s peak season.

We amplified our creative across Ashanti’s, Starbucks’, and PEOPLE’s TikTok accounts for maximum reach, ultimately spreading the PSL birthday message and giving fans a fun look at how things have changed, evolved — and in some ways, as both Ashanti’s and the PSL’s popularity proves — remained the same over the past 20 years.


We leaned into the fact that nostalgia is trending with Gen Z (the hashtag #Y2K has nearly 10 billion views on TikTok), and it worked. Our custom TikTok garnered more than 5.6 million views across platforms, indicating reach and exposure at scale. Ashanti's own organic posts had more than 1 million views, and overall sentiment was incredibly positive with a range of celebrities and brands joining the conversation to congratulate our two icons on celebrating 20 years. Commenters included Old Navy, DoorDash, Delta Airlines, Ja Rule, Fat Joe, and more. Fans joined the conversation, too, creating their own PSL moments using Ashanti’s new TikTok sound. 

Sample fan comments:



Video for Dotdash Meredith x Starbucks “Pumpkin Like It’s 2003”

Entrant Company / Organization Name

The Foundry at Dotdash Meredith in partnership with SPARK, Starbucks


Entry Credits