For Once, Tilting WINS (2/19/04)

Speaking of cats, one just got out of the bag on the Pepsi-iTunes giveaway, so we suppose it's finally safe to talk about this. See, before the promotion had even officially begun (but after the specially-marked bottles had already started appearing in stores), faithful viewer Jeff Melrose was the first to inform us way back in January that when the Universe's Cosmic Ice Cream Parlor was doling out that intangible creamy goodness known as "attention to detail," Apple apparently got a double-scoop while the Pepsi folks had wandered off to play Pac-Man. Get this: while only one cap in three is a winner, you can actually spot which caps pack free songs and which ones brand you a big loser without actually purchasing and opening the bottle.

How, you ask? Well, you could always drag along a psychic or use X-ray vision, but the most efficient technique involves the miracle of something called "tilt." That's right, people, evidently no one at Pepsi bothered to check whether customers could see the undersides of the caps through the side of the bottle just by looking. Memo to Pepsi: Duh.

People who figured this out suddenly boosted their chances of winning from 33% to a sure thing. And we didn't much care for the idea of Apple's first big iTunes promotional tie-in crumbling into a massive loss for the company shelling out the cash (even though it was said company's fault in the first place), because if word gets out that Pepsi's 100 million song giveaway was a huge money-loser, that might scuttle the chances of any other large-scale iTunes promotions ever seeing the light of day-- like that long-rumored McDonald's promo, which, if it indeed ever came to fruition in a form as originally reported, could add as much as a billion dollars to Apple's revenue. We also didn't much care for the possibility that every time we'd go to buy a Sierra Mist, all the winners would have already been cherry-picked out of the cooler by tilters. And since we have absolutely zero journalistic responsibility to the world at large, we sat on the info and waited until someone else decided to blab.

Now, though, word of The Tilt is all over the 'net like a rash, Pepsi is mortified, Apple is ambivalent (sure, it might be bad news for the prospects of future tie-ins, but it means that Pepsi's going to have to pay for a lot more songs in the short-term), and we can finally weave elaborate theories about conspiracies and coverups that tie The Tilt to the constant stream of messages we get from viewers wondering why they just can't seem to find iTunes bottles of Pepsi-- winners or otherwise-- anywhere at all. Remember when we noted that game bottles were seemingly much more prevalent on the eastern side of the country? Well, we couldn't help wondering if maybe shipments of the game bottles went out to the east first, and then someone at Pepsi noticed The Tilt and halted shipments before distribution had worked its way westward.

It's not impossible, right? And it fits in rather well with an unsubstantiated report from an anonymous faithful viewer who claimed that, about a week ago, he spotted a Pepsi delivery guy unloading a shipment down at a local convenience store. It was two weeks into the promotion period, and yet the delivery truck was packed full of Pepsi sans yellow caps. The viewer asked why there weren't more iTunes bottles around town, and allegedly said Pepsi guy replied that "he didn't think they were getting any more because something went wrong. It was costing the company a lot of money." The Tilt strikes again!

We aren't at all sure whether Pepsi can just stop shipping game pieces, since the company has already published the odds of winning, the number of bottles, etc., but we are sure that this whole situation is a pretty major screw-up and someone at Pepsi is quite possibly working on his résumé right about now. Here's hoping that the news doesn't indeed put the kibosh on future song giveaway deals; after all, the whole promotion would have worked smashingly if someone at Pepsi had just tilted a freakin' bottle before the first shipments went out. Who says attention to detail isn't important?

SceneLink (4518)
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The above scene was taken from the 2/19/04 episode:

February 19, 2004: Napster makes with the pink slips; is Apple's swiping of the HP tie-in to blame? Meanwhile, word finally gets out that winning Pepsi caps are visible by tilting the bottle, and Apple blows $300 million to get completely out of debt...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4517: The Cat On Life Support (2/19/04)   Well, it's not like anyone with a few active neurons to bump together couldn't see it coming, but it looks like the relaunched Napster just isn't wowing the crowds despite having the "biggest brand in the online music business."...

  • 4519: The Star-Spangled Debtor (2/19/04)   What's more all-American than mom, baseball, and apple pie? Well, plenty of stuff, actually, especially if the best apple pie you ever tasted was baked and served à la mode by your Hungarian mother to celebrate the latest win by the Nippon Ham Fighters, but specifically, we're talking about debt...

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