Netflix’s four-part docuseries titled ‘Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?’ chronicles the fiasco that followed Pepsi’s innovative ad campaign in 1995. While the initial idea seemed simple enough, a 21-year-old from Washington thought he had figured out a way to have Pepsi deliver him a Harrier fighter jet. The show thus features interviews with various people involved, including the brains behind the creative ad, Michael Patti. So, if you’re wondering what happened and where he might be today, here’s what we know.
Who is Michael Patti?
At the time of the incident, more than 25 years ago, Michael had been working at BBDO Worldwide, an ad agency, and had Pepsi as his client. The initial idea was to have people buy Pepsi and collect points they would later use to get merchandise like a t-shirt or a leather jacket. Therefore, Michael and his creative partner, Don Schneider, developed a clever ad campaign to publicize this.
On the show, Michael talked about being fascinated with the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog as a child, which contained a fantasy gift section with the most outrageous presents imaginable. And this is what led him and Don to come up with something similar for their ad. The final result hence had the promotional piece ending with the claim that a total of seven million Pepsi points would result in one earning a Harrier fighter jet.
So, once the ad aired, John Leonard, then 21 years old, figured out a way to viably collect the seven million points and realized that it would cost him around $700,000, much less than the value of the aircraft, which was worth around $33 million. When Michael first heard about it, he wanted the whole thing to go away because he didn’t want it to affect his work or reputation. He hoped the company would settle with John, yet the legal battle went a step further, bringing a lot of press attention until a summary judgment was granted in Pepsi’s favor years later.
On the show, Michael mentioned that sometime after John sent in the check asking for the Harrier jet, the organization demanded he change the number on the ad from seven million to 700 million. According to him, they also asked him to put “just kidding” in brackets, which he felt was an outright admission of guilt. Later, he also revealed that the original ad concept they’d come up with actually had the Harrier’s value at 700 million to signify it was unattainable. However, one of the clients had allegedly asked him to change it to seven so it would be easier to read.
Where is Michael Patti Today?
In the end, Michael admitted he would have been excited, too, if he were John’s age and had figured something like this out. On the professional front, we need to clarify he was a highly successful ad executive during the 1990s and early 2000s. He’d studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York before eventually joining BBDO New York. There, he held the position of vice chairman and executive creative director and, later, senior executive creative director.
In 2003, Michael took up a job with Y&R Advertising as the chairman of the New York office and worldwide creative director. Later, he was promoted to the role of vice chairman of the company. However, he left the position in 2007 after a rocky tenure where he sometimes had differences of opinion with clients and executives. It was reported that Michael’s severance package was a “hefty” one.
During his stellar career, Michael worked on ad campaigns for companies like Chevron, Sony, GE, Pepsi, and HBO, among others. His work with Don for an HBO ad had even landed them an Emmy nomination in 1997. They also won a Grammy award in 1996 for writing a Beatles video. Apart from that, Michael’s work with Pepsi garnered him 12 Lions at the International Advertising Festival at Cannes. He has also won several other advertising awards. Unfortunately, though, his current professional standing is unclear. Yet it does appear as if he resides in New York and spends his downtime on a farm.
Read More: Where is John’s Mom Linda Leonard Now?