In 1995, Pepsi ran a promotion in which they offered merchandise for “Pepsi points.” You could redeem your Pepsi points for clothing and accessories and all sorts of neat stuff, as you can see in the original ad. The prizes ran all the way up to a Harrier jet for seven million Pepsi points.
The joke is simple enough: they took the idea behind Pepsi Points and extrapolated it until it was ridiculous. Solid comedy writing. But then they seemingly didn’t do the math. Seven million sure does sound like a big number, but I don’t think the team creating the ad bothered to run the numbers and check that it was definitely big enough.
But someone else did. At the time, each AV‑8 Harrier II Jump Jet brought into action cost the United States Marine Corps over $20 million and, thankfully, there is a simple way to convert between USD and PP: Pepsi would let anyone buy additional points for 10 cents each. Now, I’m not familiar with the market for second-hand military aircraft, but a price of $700,000 on a $20 million aircraft sounds like a good investment. As it did to John Leonard, who tried to cash in on this.
Leonard did the math, and bought enough Pepsi points to get the jet. The company was caught by surprise, because they didn’t do the math. Read how that turned out, and why the ad company couldn’t see it coming at Literary Hub. -via Digg