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Guns N' Roses' lawyer to Dr Pepper: 'Our clients are outraged at your treatment of their fans'

November 26, 2008 |  3:05 pm
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Guns N' Roses lawyer Alan S. Gutman has lashed out at the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, claiming in a letter to the company that the soda makers failed to make good on a promise and "violated" Guns N' Roses' rights in "numerous respects."

In the letter, obtained by The Times, Gutman writes that W. Axl Rose and Guns N' Roses are "outraged at the treatment of their fans and the American public in general." Earlier this year, Dr Pepper officials teased that they would give everyone in the country a free soda if the band's album “Chinese Democracy” arrived before the year was out. Gutman writes that the promotion was "clumsily implemented " and an "unmitigated disaster."

After the release of "Chinese Democracy" was officially announced this fall, Tony Jacobs, Dr Pepper's vice president of marketing, posted at www.chinesedemocracywhen.blogspot.com: “We never thought this day would come. But now that it’s here, all we can say is: The Dr. Pepper’s on us.”

As Pop & Hiss noted Sunday, Dr Pepper's website was flooded with customers, who had 24 hours to fill out a voucher for a free soda on Nov. 23, the day "Chinese Democracy" was released exclusively to Best Buy. Fans who submitted their information to the site would receive a coupon for a free 20-ounce bottle of Dr Pepper. When Dr Pepper's site failed to respond to the traffic, the company extended the offer through Monday.

Writes Gutman, "What happened on November 23 was a complete fiasco. In what could only be characterized as reckless indifference or complete stupidity, Dr Pepper was completely unprepared for the traffic to its site. Most visitors were greeted with error messages. Some people who got through to Dr Pepper's servers were told to call a toll free number, few of whom got through. Many walked away angry as Dr Pepper ... soured the momentous music event that was 'Chinese Democracy's' release."

Gutman is requesting that Dr Pepper "contact us to discuss an appropriate payment to our clients" for the unofficial brand association. Gutman is also requesting the company run a full-page ad in a number of major American newspapers, including the L.A. Times, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, apologizing for the way the campaign was run. Finally, Gutman is asking Dr Pepper to expand the redemption window for the free soda offer to "make good on its promise."

A Dr Pepper spokesperson responded with a statement. "For us, this was a fun giveaway that has always been about the fans, and we’ve taken great steps to fulfill it." The company said it extended the giveaway window from 24 to 48 hours, added a toll-free line and set up "an interactive voice recorder to accept coupon requests."

"This was one of the largest responses we have ever received for a giveaway, and we’re happy we were able to satisfy the thirst of so many Dr Pepper fans," read the statement.

When the Dr Pepper promotion was announced in March -- when "Chinese Democracy" had no release date -- Dr Pepper noted that everyone in America, excluding former GNR guitarists Slash and Buckethead -- would be granted a free soda. Soon after, a statement attributed to Rose was posted on the official Guns N' Roses website, and back then, the band seemed game for the marketing ploy.   

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A screenshot is above, but read the Rose comment, "We are surprised and very happy to have the support of Dr Pepper with our album 'Chinese Democracy,' as for us, this came totally out of the blue. If there is any involvement with this promotion by our record company or others, we are unaware of such at this time. And as some of Buckethead's performances are on our album, I'll share my Dr Pepper with him."

Gutman's letter writes that all contact between GNR's management and Dr Pepper "foundered," and ends with a threat: "Failure to make an acceptable offer may necessitate our client's pursuit of available remedies."

--Todd Martens

Photo: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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