Low-tech 'hack' takes fizz out of Pepsi-iTunes promo

It doesn't take a code breaker or a math whiz to lift songs from Apple Computer's iTunes online music store--it just takes a good pair of eyes and a trip to the corner store.

iTunes fans have "hacked" a high-profile Pepsi promotion aimed at giving away 100 million songs through special codes marked on the underside of bottle caps. The codes can be entered on the iTunes site to download a single for free. One in three bottles is a winner, but it turns out that the markings can be read without removing the cap. CNET News.com confirmed that it is not only possible to pick out winning bottles in advance; careful scrutiny can reveal the full 10-digit redemption code, meaning no purchase is required to get a free iTunes single courtesy of Pepsi. "I've always been looking under caps whenever they had a giveaway," said Jon Gales, Webmaster for MacMerc.com, an online community for Macintosh users and developers, which published a detailed description of the code-grabbing technique on Wednesday. "I thought it was human nature. People have been doing it for years."

The bottle cap loophole could disrupt Pepsi's ambitious marketing campaign, which kicked off with splashy TV spots that aired during the Super Bowl and also took a shot at file-swappers. The giveaway comes amid growing interest in music as a promotional tool for soft drinks and other products. Pepsi's archrival, Coke, has also jumped into digital music, launching a digital download store in Europe. Pepsi said that as a precaution against prying eyes and other shenanigans, the company restricted the number of codes a given customer could redeem in a day. "We always put redemption limits in place on promotions like this," said Dave DeCecco, a Pepsi spokesman, "but we found that most consumers played by the rules."

News source: C|Net News.com

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