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Pepsi's bottle cap shell game

©04 The Media Desk

     Marketers love contests. It makes for easy promotion of the product and captures the public imagination.
     "You could WIN (fill in the blank with fabulous grand prize) Today!"
     The latest craze is to give away a Billion Dollars. For some reason people don't think a Million, or an around the world cruise, or a new car, or free groceries for a year is enough of a prize. Of course, more people win the free soft drink, or save ten percent on your next purchase, or something else more or less trivial, than any substantial prize. And of course, one heck of a lot more people get the 'sorry, please play again' message than ever see anything like an actual prize.
     But in today's online world the gimmick is to print a secret code on the label or under the cap and then have the customer log onto a site, which will most likely ask for your email address and other info so they can SPAM you, to check the code to see if you won.

     But there is a problem here.
     The Real World Product Distribution Timeline doesn't line up anywhere close to the world of Instant Online Promotion and TV Schedules.

     Witness the following.
     Pepsi® (see below) was running a contest where you could win a chance to play for a billion dollars on an ABC special sometime in the upcoming TV season.
     OK. Fine.
     You buy a bottle of one of their products and check your code online to see if you won.
     Wonderful. Right? "Of course right."
     Now, hereby comes the rub.
     The contest ENDED on 17 of August, 2004. The "Sell By" date on the bottle of Sierra Mist that the Desk just bought for lunch is 8 November, 2004. Which makes one wonder if in fact this bottle was put on the truck to the store the same week the contest expired? If not after the date.
     Pepsi says it is not responsible for delays in the shipping of product and so on.
Pepsi's Official Rules are Here: although they say they can take them down at any time. Cut and paste into address bar to go there.

[see Rule 15 (as posted on Pepsi's Yahoo site), their disclaimer for voiding winning game pieces,
it's a work of art. Check it out. The Desk is an aficionado of these things.]

      If the game began on May Second and ended in August, when did they begin shipping the bottles with the game pieces on them? And when will they stop? There was scarcely a three month window for you to find a winning cap and get it logged onto the Pepsi site. What are the chances anybody could win the big prize?
     That's cutting your window of liability for The Big Prize pretty tight.
     Most likely, the caps didn't hit the street until well after the contest had begun, and ended before a good number of them had even been put on the bottles.
     And it was intentional the Desk is sure.
     In THE RULES Pepsi says "In the event Sponsor is unable to award all 200 Contestant Packages prior to the Event, or if any Contestant fails to appear at the Event, the Event may include fewer than 200 Contestants." Any bets on whether or not there will be 200 contestants at the Event?
     Now, add to the above that the same contest, under sometimes different names, was being run at Pizza Hut, Eckerd Drugs, ShopRite, Cub Foods, Kroger, Farmer Jack's, on ABC, and several other outfits including Major League Baseball in partnership with Pepsi. In addition to Pepsi's own advertising.
     How many of them issued all their game pieces before the deal died online? How many pizza boxes or drink cups are still out there as well? All with expired codes.

     Face it. No major corporation wants to be on the hook for a million dollars, and even less, for a billion. It's tough on the bottom line when you have your profitability for the year in the hands of a chimp on a TV show with the potential being that you're going to have to sign a check to some lackey from a trailer park for a good percentage of your corporate earnings for the year.
     While it's true that Pepsi has to post a bond somewhere that guarantees that if somebody actually wins they can pay it off, it is also true that if nobody claims the prize, Pepsi retains it, and can roll it into their next sweepstakes.
     So since the monkey didn't give it away last time, now they can 'try' to give it away this time. And when nobody wins it again. As is likely the case, they can let it set until next time.
     If there are only a dozen or so Contestants, either through a 'cash and go home offer' or other means of buying them out, Pepsi improves their odds of not actually having a winner when Bonzo the Great picks his six digit number out of… well, this is the Family Hour.

     The Desk has calculated it out… Pepsi says there were something on the order of thirteen million game pieces for this contest. But the Desk's chances of winning were something less than the one in 13,000,000 it advertised, especially since a good many of the participating game pieces were still sitting in a warehouse someplace when the game ended.
     So this writer has a better chance of being hit by debris from a comet than it would winning anything from Pepsi.
     Such is life.

     Time to go by a Powerball ticket and find a hard hat in case of incoming space rocks.


[NOTE: All product names trademark and copyright by their owners, which are also ® and © by somebody else too. The Desk is NOT affiliated with PepsiCo, ABC, Yahoo, Disney, their trained chimp or anything else that way. It does not enter contests of this type as a general rule, and has never won anything of value in them. However, it does think it is deplorable that major corporations would knowingly and willingly operate in this way. If a statement from any of the organizations listed above is forthcoming, the Desk will post it in its entirety. Thank You ]

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