Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? Review 2022 Tv Show Series Cast Crew Online
So ran the tagline for the 1996 promotion that the soft-drinks company believed would help them win the “cola wars”.
After all, they already had Madonna, Michael Jackson, Cindy Crawford and Shaquille O’Neal helping to sell their product – all rivals Coke had was an animated polar bear.
Providing an opportunity for customers to acquire everything from branded caps and t-shirts to denim jackets and mountain bikes, Pepsi Stuff would surely not only increase sales over the summer, but also cement the brand loyalty of the so-called “Pepsi Generation”.
But as the four-part documentary series Pepsi, Where’s My Jet (which debuts on Netflix tonight, Thursday, November 17) details, the company’s marketing boffins clearly hadn’t expected to encounter somebody as driven as 20-year-old John Leonard. Or, if they had, they didn’t expect that his unlikely campaign would be bankrolled with someone with deep pockets like Todd Hoffman.
Watching the main high school-set TV spot, entrepreneurial community college student Leonard (who had already had a string of jobs from paperboy to glass cutter and climbing guide) was enthralled by the top-listed “reward” of a Harrier jump jet. He couldn’t believe that was being “offered” for 7 million Pepsi Points, with nary a disclaimer or any onscreen fine print in sight.
“To me, that was a legit offer – I don’t care what anyone else says,” he recalls. With a Harrier worth around US$30 to $32m, “this was an opportunity to change my world”.
After crunching the numbers, he began the monumental task of collection the cans he needed – but it wasn’t long before he realised just how overwhelmingly impossible it would be. He and his mother would have to acquire the equivalent of 190 Pepsis a day for 100 years.
Disappointed, but undeterred, Leonard decided to call Hoffman, an investor he had met while assisting him to climb Mt.Denali. The pair had shared a mutual desire to climb the highest mountain in each continent.
Armed with a business plan that included storage costs for the around 16 million cans required, Leonard also reached out to the Pentagon to ensure it would be legal to purchase the warcraft. Sure, they said, as long as it didn’t come with missiles or radar-jamming.
Plans for how they could recoup their potential $US4.3m investment, other than simply selling the Harrier, were spit-balled (rides were out, as it only had one seat, but hiring it out for commercials and movies could be possible), before their scheme hit a snag – what would happen if the promotion ended before they’d acquired all the necessary points? It was a risk Hoffman was unwilling to take.
Leonard was gutted, until he investigated a promotional standee at his local supermarket. Leafing through a catalogue, he was shocked to discover there was another way to earn Pepsi points – simply buy them. As long as you had a token amount of official points off Pepsi products, you could top up your total at the rate of 10c per 100 points. Now, they’d only need US$700,000 to secure their aircraft.
What followed was a protracted battle between the pair and Pepsi execs – gobsmacked that anyone had taken what was “clearly a joke” seriously – that ultimately ended in a 1999 court case.
Director Andrew Renzi, whose previous subjects have included a Washington after-school boxing programme, immigrants who sign up for American military service and the rise and fall of noughties fashion brand Von Dutch keeps things pretty light, as he tries to build a comprehensive picture of both sides of the argument.
Renzi and his crew also make a point of subjecting each of their subjects to the infamous “Pepsi Challenge” (where participants blind-taste a Pepsi and a Coke and try to guess which is which – and state which one they prefer). The results are fascinating – and I’m sure were a good way of disarming their guests.
While it doesn’t quite have the sustained jaw-drop of 2020’s McMillions – and might have been better as a single 90-minute documentary, rather than being drawn out into a 157-minute four-parter – Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? Is a jovial and fascinating look back at ‘90s culture and advertising – as well as cautionary tale for companies desperate to capture hearts, minds – and the zeitgeist – with a splashy promotion.