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‘Pepsi, Where's My Jet?’ Review: A Tale of Advertising and Ambition

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Netflix’s new docuseries “Pepsi, Where's My Jet?” truly epitomizes the saying “if there’s a will, there’s a way.” It centers around a boy who, in 1996, takes a Pepsi ad too seriously, then ends up suing the corporation to get a military fighter jet.

The documentary reminds viewers of Pepsi’s popularity in the ‘90s and explains the concept of Pepsi points, a loyalty program that allowed customers to purchase premiums with points. Although this flashy introduction initially distracts from the series’ informative nature, it successfully establishes Pepsi’s cultural significance in the United States and the traction it was drawing from the public at the time.

Then, the source of all the drama is introduced: the infamous ad. The advertisement, which aired on television during the 1990s showcased Pepsi as a cool drink, showing a boy stepping out of a military fighter jet. The ad jokingly claimed that the jet was worth 7,000,000 Pepsi points, however, it provided no official disclaimer. Most people might think this is only a marketing ploy and not a serious offer. Most people, that is, except for John Leonard.

The story is introduced with a bit of the blame game for who’s fault this Pepsi ad was, as various people involved provide different accounts of the advertisement, exposing tensions between Pepsi’s creative team and management. The situation quickly escalates as 20-year-old Leonard finds a loophole in Pepsi points to win the jet, and eventually enters into a legal battle with the company, because it would be essentially illegal for Pepsi to give away a military weapon.

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The series tells a true story, but its pacing ultimately feels unrealistic as Leonard’s onscreen fight against Pepsi unfolds without exploring many of the real-life complexities of the case. Everything seems to go too smoothly, telling an “intense” story where Leonard finds loophole after loophole. Nevertheless, the series is engaging every second of the way, and this may be because of its simplicity. The balance of intensity, intrigue, and uninterrupted flow is what makes this plotline great.

As the war between Pepsi and Leonard continues, the story’s focus moves from the court case itself to the people involved in it. The series introduces Leonard’s support system, and their motives behind aiding the ambitious kid who wants a military fighter jet just to prove a point. This emphasis on personal relationships is a clever choice by producers, keeping audiences engaged beyond legal jargon.

It quickly becomes clear that this piece of media is a cautionary tale about advertising and how far someone will go to prove themselves. Although this shift from the Pepsi case to the motives and background stories of those involved seemed out of place for the title of this docuseries, it is an intriguing angle to take.

This show highlights family stories and intrinsic motivations, as numerous people tell their stories and opinions surrounding the Pepsi chaos. In the context of Leonard’s team, the docuseries is full of strong personalities determined to get things done and do the impossible. To viewers, these individuals might seem either narcissistic or inspirational, so it is definitely a large risk to take when it comes to gaining audience support for both the general piece and the people involved in Leonard’s team.

Overall, anyone looking for an outrageous, fast-paced, packed story should watch “Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?” immediately. It shows Pepsi and advertising in a unique light, while providing some interesting personalities on screen — a true lesson to companies to be careful with what they promise customers, even if they want to sell more of their product.

People will either love the strong-headed team by Leonard’s side, or love to hate them. Either way, they are definitely a group of go-getters who know how to tell a surprising, engaging story.

—Staff Writer Hailey E. Krasnikov can be reached at hailey.krasnikov@thecrimson.com.

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