Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Do you remember this ad?

I do. It was part of a 1996 campaign that is really rather self-explanatory. (I got a wallet out of it that's still hanging on at the close of 2010. I also got a little duffel bag with some balls in it. Those are long gone.)

John Leonard probably also remembers it. Note the Harrier Jet at the end there, quoted at 7 million points. The rules of the promotion stipulated you could buy points for 10 cents each. Leonard figured that $700,000 is a hell of a price for a Harrier jet, which normally retails for $33.8 million. So he raised the money from five investors, went to Pepsi, and asked for his jet. He had 15 points from actual Pepsi (the minimum required for any claim on Stuff), along with $700,008.50- the remaining money, plus shipping and handling. $10 seems reasonable for delivering a fighter jet, right? Sure!

Pepsi obviously had no jet to give. They clearly didn't think anyone was actually going to come up with 7 million points. They returned Leonard's check, and tried to tell him that the offer was made as a joke. Spokeman Jon Harris said, "If we have to put disclaimers on spots that are obviously farces, where does it end?" Leonard, who really wanted a Harrier jet, and had $700,000 in this endeavor besides, sued.

Pepsi quickly recut the ad:

The case took three years to be heard, during which time Leonard asked that the case be heard by a jury of his peers as opposed to a federal judge.

Plaintiff argues that a federal judge comes from a "narrow segment of the enormously broad American socio-economic spectrum," id. at 342, and, thus, that the question whether the commercial constituted a serious offer must be decided by a jury composed of, inter alia, members of the "Pepsi Generation," who are, as plaintiff puts it, "young, open to adventure, willing to do the unconventional." (See Leonard Aff. � 2.) Plaintiff essentially argues that a federal judge would view his claim differently than fellow members of the "Pepsi Generation."

In 1999, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood of New York sided with Pepsi, stating the obvious, "No objective person could reasonably have concluded that the commercial actually offered customers a Harrier jet." In addition, the Pentagon had a little something to say about it, saying that any Harrier they would allow to be sold would have to be "de-militarized". Which in layman's terms means stripped of everything that makes you want one. Not only would the weapons have to come out, so would the Harrier's ability to vertically take off and land. Which means you wouldn't be able to fly it.

My wallet's still kicking, John. The Pepsi logo came off a long way back but it still holds money. So you're aware.

No comments: