(Spoiler alert: This post reveals the ending of ‘Hey Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?)

What’s interesting about Hey Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? is it shows what can go wrong when the agency and the client have different agendas.

The beginning of the story is the launch of a promotion whereby customers earn points by buying Pepsi, then use them for items like a hat (60 pts), T shirt (80 pts), sunglasses (125 pts), denim jacket (400 pts), leather jacket (1200 pts).

The ad agency, BBDO, made a commercial featuring a teenager wearing those items with those captions underneath.

So far so good, but where it all went wrong was at the end of the ad, the teenager was in a Harrier jump-jet with the caption: 7,000,000 points.

Watching the commercial was another teenager, John Leonard, who saw that there was no disclaimer under the Harrier caption, so it must be a genuine offer.

He worked out how much Pepsi he’d need to drink to earn 7,000, 000 points.

He’d have to drink 190 cans a day for 100 years, that’s 1.4 million 12-packs.

To store that many cans he’d need to rent 6 warehouses, each with 100,000 sq ft space.

Obviously that wasn’t do-able, but then he read the small print that said he could buy Pepsi points for 10 cents each, that meant 7 million points would cost $700,000.

That’s a lot of money, but a Harrier jump-jet cost $34 million, so it was a great deal.

He took it to a friend who was a millionaire, and he lent him the money to buy the points.

Pepsi refused to give him the jet, claiming it was obviously a joke, ‘advertising puffery’.

In the UK, the ASA CAP code defines ‘advertising puffery’ as follows:

Code rule 3.2 states that obvious exaggerations (“puffery”) and claims that the average consumer who sees the marketing communication is unlikely to take literally are allowed provided they do not materially mislead. These types of claims are unlikely to be capable of substantiation, and are acceptable, provided they do not materially mislead.

But John Leonard maintained since the offer for the Harrier was presented with no disclaimer it was obviously either a serious offer or intended to mislead.

Pepsi quickly changed the caption at the end of the commercial, they changed 7,000,000 points to 700,000,000 points and added “Just kidding” underneath.

Eventually, after several years and an enormous amount of adverse publicity the case was decided in Pepsi’s favour.

But a lot of harm had been done to the brand, making it look like a company that cheats.

The real learning for us comes at the end of the film.

Michael Patti, who wrote the commercial, takes us through the original storyboard he presented to Pepsi.

The original teenager was chubby and ordinary, to spell out the joke.

But the client insisted on casting someone more like a young Tom Cruise, the client wanted aspirational and believable more than funny.

And here’s the crunch, the original end caption over the Harrier said 700,000,000 points.

Exactly what they were eventually forced to change it to.

The client had turned it down saying it had too many zeros, he wanted it shorter and bigger.

The writer said it was funnier with more zeros.

The client said he wanted it to be readable, the writer said it didn’t need to be readable, just a huge UNATTAINABLE number, that was the joke.

The client said he didn’t care about the joke, he wanted it readable.

So Pepsi got their way, just as they had on their in-house Kendall Jenner ad, and just the way they had on their Pepsi Refresh project, all expensive mistakes.

There’s an old expression Pepsi might find useful about working with ad agencies.

It concerns buying a dog and barking yourself.