The College Student Who Demanded Pepsi Hand Over a Harrier Jet

Pepsi and Coca-Cola have been locking horns over market share in the highly lucrative soft drink industry for decades, but sometimes their attempts to capture attention have blown up in their face. Their constant one-upmanship eventually led Pepsi to a 1996 promotion in which the soft drink giant offered prizes to consumers who accumulated points from buying Pepsi products. Guzzle through Pepsi and one might earn a t-shirt, sunglasses, a leather jacket, beach towels, or…….maybe even a Harrier jet. In the commercial, a student was seen climbing out of the jet in front of his school. “Sure beats the bus,” the actor quipped. A caption on the screen relayed that 7 million Pepsi Points were needed for the prize, pretty much assuring that no one would accumulate that many points. However, college student John Leonard figured out that Pepsi Points could simply be purchased outright. So, he convinced 5 investors to front him $700,000 to buy enough points to snag a ride in the Harrier. When Pepsi received the check, they returned it to Leonard, who promptly sued them for fraudulent advertising. Pepsi counteracted, asking that the claim be declared frivolous. Judge Kimba Wood of New York’s Southern District Court sided with Pepsi, asserting that the advertisement was clearly meant to be humorous and because they didn't cash Leonard's check, there was no case for fraud. Leonard lost his lawsuit and Pepsi continued to air the commercial. However, they updated the cost of the Harrier Jet from 7 million to 700 million Pepsi Points and added a clarifying "Just Kidding" disclaimer.