Review of Pepsi, Where’s My Jet Rating ****
A company puts out an advertisement with some outrageous offer, thinking that it is unattainable only to learn that someone is trying to claim the offer. That’s the plot of this four-part docuseries.
The unattainable but attainable offer in this instance is a Harrier Jet. The offer appeared in a TV commercial where Pepsi offered various prizes for Pepsi points. The more Pepsi you drank, the more points you got. Those points could then be used to get items like a leather jacket and sunglasses. The commercial ended with a young kid showing what Pepsi was offering for seven million Pepsi points, which was the Harrier Jet.
Twenty-year-old John Leonard decided that he wanted that jet. It didn’t take long before he realized that it was impossible to drink enough Pepsi to get that many points no matter how many friends and family he enlisted. That’s when he saw something in the fine print that said you could buy points for ten cents a point. That worked out to just over $700,000. Enter Todd Hoffman.
Todd is a successful businessman with a penchant for travel and mountain climbing. It was on a climbing trip that Leonard and Hoffman first met. They both shared a passion for adventure. Leonard told Todd about the Pepsi challenge and convinced him to write the check for the $700,000, arguing that the Harrier jet was worth thirty-two million. Leonard had some crazy ideas about how he could use the Harrier jet to make money like doing air shows and offering rides. Forget the fact that Leonard didn’t know how to fly and would have had no way of getting the training to learn how to fly a Harrier jet, assuming it was even possible to buy one.
That’s when things enter the legal arena. Pepsi sues John Leonard. Leonard sues Pepsi, and the battle was on.
This short series has a lot of humor, thanks to both John Leonard and Todd Hoffman who realized very on the David and Goliath aspects of their fight with Pepsi. One interesting twist that happens in the fourth episode is when Leonard is introduced to lawyer Michael Avenatti.
At the time of the meeting, Avenatti didn’t even have his law license. He would go on to represent Leonard in his fight. His strategy was to get the story into the media. When the media started to dry up and interest in the story waned, Avenatti started to look for dirt on Pepsi. His research paid off when he uncovered another Pepsi advertising fiasco in the Philippines.
Avenatti wanted to use the Pepsi dirt as leverage in getting Pepsi to settle. Todd Hoffman wanted no part of that strategy. He said it felt to him like blackmail. Avenatti, as it turns out, used a similar strategy on Nike and was just sentenced to fourteen years in prison for that and other crimes. John Leonard takes his friend’s side and doesn’t go down the blackmail path. As a way of showing that it was the right decision, Hoffman tells the producer of the series that he isn’t the one wearing an ankle bracelet. The series was shot after Avenatti was convicted but before he was sentenced.
The filmmakers use recreations with actors portraying Leonard and Hoffman in their earlier years. There are also interviews with the executives behind the ad. The story is interspersed with Leonard and Hoffman preparing for a mountain climbing expedition to Antarctica.
There are some interesting legal questions that arise over the course of the series. Unfortunately, the case never went before a jury. I won’t give away the ending, but you get the sense after some facts about the original ad and subsequent ads are revealed, that had they gotten to a jury trial, there might have been a different outcome.
You can catch this on Netflix.