The Netflix documentary “Pepsi, Where’s my Jet” is based on Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., a landmark 1999 court case in the United States. The case involved a claim by John Leonard who sued PepsiCo. The company refused to deliver a Harrier jet that he believed he had earned by collecting 7 million Pepsi points through the company’s advertising campaign. In the commercial, Pepsi clearly led the consumer to believe that you could get a fighter jet in exchange for points. The company, however, never had any intention of following through because they said it was meant to be a joke.
The court ruled in favor of PepsiCo and stated that the commercial was not a legitimate and binding offer. The decision was based on the court’s opinion that no reasonable person would believe that with 7 million Pepsi points, you would receive a fighter jet.
The court’s ruling established the precedent that advertisements are not considered legally binding offers. It has essentially allowed companies to be free of legal consequences when they make exaggerated claims in their advertising. This decision had a major impact on advertising and contract law in the United States.
In a case like Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc., the decision truly depends on your judge. Judges are tasked with interpreting the law and applying it based on the facts of the case. They need to consider several factors, including what parties’ intentions were, the context of the ad, and how the ad would be interpreted by a reasonable person. In this case, the court’s decision was heavily based on the latter.
In some cases, it is possible that a judge’s personal beliefs can influence their decision-making process and, in turn, the outcome of the case. For example, if a judge is known for being tough on corporations, they would have possibly been harder on PepsiCo. However, a judge who is known for being more on capitalist side of things they may be more likely to rule in favor of the company.
Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc. was an important case that established the principle that advertisements are not legally binding offers. As a result, companies can make unrealistic claims with no legal repercussions. The role of the judge in the case is critical and their decision can be swayed by their own opinions. This case is a classic example of how the result of trial weighs heavy on judges baggage, views, opinions, in their interpretation of facts, and the law. This can be easily applied to family law cases when weighing the cost benefit of settlement versus trial. At least with settlement you can control the outcome and make peace with your choices, rather than a judge render a decision on your behalf.
Interestingly to note that we had the same commercial in Canada and there was a disclaimer indicating exclusions, exceptions etc. In the Netflix documentary the exemption of the disclaimer was intentional to really lead the consumer to believe that it was attainable.
Link to the commercial from YouTube: https://youtu.be/ZdackF2H7Qc