May 07, 2006
Today in History: Sorry, No Harrier Jet
Exactly ten years ago, on this date, May 7, 2006, the Pepsi Cola Company refused to deliver a Harrier jet aircraft to John D. R. Leonard, who had sent in a check for $700,000 for 7 million “Pepsi Points” and demanded the jet. Leonard would subsequently sue, leading to one of the most famous contract law decisions of the last decade, Leonard v. Pepsico.
Pepsi had run a television commercial as part of its “Pepsi Stuff” marketing campaign, showing a schoolboy arriving at school in his own Harrier AV-8B VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) fighter jet, with the tag line, “Harrier Fighter 7,000,000 Pepsi Points.” The Harrier jet was presumably chosen because Arnold Schwarzenegger had flown one to destroy the bad guys in the 1994 hit True Lies. The $700,000 would have been a bargain, since according to the Internet Movie Database, the producers of True Lies had paid the Marine Corps more than $100,000 -- $2,410 an hour -- just to rent Harriers for the film.
The Pepsi Stuff campaign, by the way, extremely effective, being named Promo Magazine in 2002 as one of the “Ageless Wonders” of advertising, right up there with the prizes in Cracker Jack boxes. Leonard's suit probably didn't hurt.
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