Netflix’s new documentary series Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? plays as a cautionary tale to advertisers across the world. In 1996, Pepsi released an ad with a simple premise: consumers could collect ‘Pepsi Points’, which could be cashed in for prizes such as t-shirts, sunglasses, and hats. The main prize, however, was a harrier jet – a large attack aircraft developed in the 60s. But how many Pepsi Points would this set you back? Oh, just a mere 7,000,000.
John Leonard, a wide-eyed young man, quickly secures all the points thanks to the help of his friend and investor, the eccentric Todd Hoffman. Their friendship (which formed through their mutual love of exploring) sits at the centre of the series, and scenes often cut away to them climbing a mountain together – perhaps an apt metaphor for the uphill legal battle they faced, although wholly irrelevant to the story. When Leonard cashes his points in for the jet, he is laughed out of the room.
Unlike most of Netflix’s docuseries, Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? shows viewers two sides of the coin over the four 40-minute episodes. We hear the story from Leonard, as well as the executives at Pepsi who continue to insist, over 20 years later, that the jet was “just a joke” despite the lack of a disclaimer in the ad.
While the ensuing lawsuit may seem banal, the storytelling is what sits at the heart of this series. It incorporates features of a 90s Pepsi ad – cartoon sketches, retro graphics, and the pure essence of Americana contained on screen, gripping you throughout. Keeping in line with the tongue-in-cheek vibe, the producers riff-off the now-infamous “Pepsi vs Coke” war by introducing us to each character with a blind taste test of each beverage. Despite the fact that the series is about legal drama, it keeps things light and fun.
Who Is In Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?
The series features some big names, too. Michael Avenatti (the lawyer who famously represented Stormy Daniels), while under house arrest, sips cooly from two cups of fizzy drink while What a Man plays in the background. The episode before? Cindy Crawford herself takes a pop at the challenge.
In the final episode, the documentary takes a solemn turn as viewers are suddenly transported to the Philippines. Here, we learn about another scandal Pepsi found itself embroiled in through an advertising campaign although, this time, lives were lost in the protests staged by angry customers. After just eight minutes of testimony from bereft victims, we are swiftly hurried along to yet another inconsequential clip of John and Todd on their trip. There are so many questions left unanswered about the Pepsi “Number Fever” incident that took place there, and we are hurried through this tale too quickly.
Ultimately, you must ask yourself: is this documentary life-changing? Eye-opening and educational? No. Despite a few attempts at throwing in some semi-emotional moments, the documentary tells the amusing story of the time a 20-year-old took on Pepsi, and it does this refreshingly well. Some documentaries can simply entertain and, if that is what you are looking for, then Pepsi, Where’s My Jet? does not disappoint.