“Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?” isn’t just a small documentary series on Netflix about one ad campaign. This is a nostalgia fest of 90s culture, a deeper look into the Cola Wars, and a showcase of documentary-making about a court case.
In 1995, Pepsi launched their “Pepsi Stuff” campaign. At the end of the launch commercial, it displayed on screen that for 7 million Pepsi points, you could get a Harrier Jet. John Leonard took that seriously, and what happens from there is documented in this series.
Episode 1 features the commercial itself, background on the Cola Wars, and enough 90s nostalgia to overwhelm the most ardent member of Generation X.
Episode 2 discusses the claiming of the prize, the making of the commercial and ad campaign, and the first lawsuits.
Episode 3 brings the case to the court of public opinion, with even the Pentagon weighing in.
Episode 4 takes the case to the actual judicial court and renders a verdict.
The thing is, there is a lot here to digest. Firstly, Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., has become a teaching case for law students. That’s a fascinating concept, because as a non-lawyer, you don’t expect a court case from the 90s to be in the curriculum.
Second, and perhaps most important, I have to say that this was so well done that it makes me believe that there are other such educationally relevant court cases that might have a broader appeal. I say that as someone who has mocked Court TV since the days of the OJ trial. Yet here I am, singing the praises of a four-part documentary about a court case.
The bottom line here is that as a person who laments a lack of creativity from Hollywood, this is a court case you couldn’t make up and it makes for great viewing. Is Pepsi at fault? Probably. Was the judge overreaching and missing the point? In hindsight and without any legal education, I would say yes. And this points to a larger issue with our legal system where those who have money have power and those without have, well, less power.
It’s also about happenstance and the power of friendship. While this whole story seems pretty preposterous and could very well have happened anyway with someone else, it happens here because John Leonard and Todd Hoffman became friends while climbing Mt. Denali in Alaska. More to the point, they really got to know each other because of a storm that kept them shoulder-to-shoulder in a tent for an extended period of time. Who knows? If it weren’t for that storm, this might have never happened, or I could be writing about two different people.
Regardless of what you learn, or your feelings for the case or how it was handled, this was entertaining and edited in such a way that it becomes a compelling case and is certainly more interesting than reading a court brief!