When the cola brand launched a points-for-prizes scheme in the 90s, John Leonard spotted a loophole and fought for what he saw as rightly his: a Harrier jump jet. A new documentary tells the wild story
In 1996, PepsiCo – then known for creating the young, cool, carbonated drink of a generation – made an incredible mistake. The company had just launched its Pepsi Points scheme, in which customers could save Pepsi labels and redeem them against Pepsi-branded merchandise. Sixty tokens would get you a hat. Four hundred and you’d get a denim jacket. But in the commercial accompanying the launch, Pepsi went further, joking that anyone who collected 7m labels would be eligible for a brand new Harrier jump jet. The mistake? Pepsi forgot to add any small print pointing out that it was a joke.
That one oversight now forms the basis for a wildly entertaining Netflix series, entitled Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? It tells the story of John Leonard, a Washington State community college student who decided to take Pepsi at its word. After quickly realising that buying 7m cans or bottles of Pepsi would be prohibitively expensive, Leonard saw a disclaimer revealing that, rather than collecting labels, consumers could buy Pepsi Points for 10 cents each. A $23m Harrier jump jet for just $700,000? That was the bargain of the century. Over four episodes, the show recounts one young man’s determination to take on a multinational corporation to get what an advert had promised him.