In 1992, Pepsi ran a disastrous kind of lottery campaign in the Philippines called Number Fever. It was promising to make thousands and thousands of people into millionaires. Seems too good to be true? Well, turns out it was. Pepsi had accidentally chosen a winning number that appeared on 600,000 bottle caps, and there was no way they would be able to award all the money.
Around the same time, the appliance company Hoover ran into a similar kind of trouble. They had promised consumers in the UK an incredible deal: Two free airline tickets with the purchase of a Hoover appliance over £100. They were hoping that few customers would actually follow through on claiming the tickets — they were wrong.
These disastrous campaigns could rank among the most egregious mistakes ever made in the history of advertising promotions. On the show, we discuss sales promotions that companies made mistakes on or failed to do the math on in a big way, and how likely they are to actually follow through on their promises.
Check out more stories of disaster on Tim Harford's podcast Cautionary Tales!