So Dr Pepper were overwhelmed by user interest in a free offer, which brought down a promotional website and led to all sorts of financial and PR problems.
Reminds me of when I worked for a telemarketing company a dozen years ago. At the time giant manufacturer Daewoo were trying to enter the UK car market and decided on an innovative marketing strategy. They took a bunch of prime-time TV ad slots and used them to offer interested customers a free car for a year. There was (of course) some small print, and only a relatively small number of actual cars on offer.
The plan was to get anyone interested to contact the telemarketing company, answer a bunch of questions and have their details “put into the hat” for a free car. Then, in principle, Daewoo would have a ready-made sales call list of potential customers.
What happened? They completely, and very naively, underestimated the customer interest. When the first ad aired they received over 60,000 incoming calls in less than a minute. This completely swamped the telemarketing company, who had less than a hundred phone operators. Worse, it crashed the local phone exchange, preventing any incoming and outgoing calls from any of the businesses in that area for hours. The result was a consumer backlash, legal threats, and a PR nightmare.
Glad to see that the same mistakes are still being made