Dr Pepper website crashed by free offer

Dr. Pepper decided to offer everyone in America a free bottle of soda (something they had promised to do if the new Guns n’ Roses album was released this year). All people had to do was to register for a free coupon on the Dr. Pepper website.

Now here comes the twist: Dr. Pepper had time limited the offer to just one day, and there are more than 300 million people in the United States. And we all know people love free stuff.

The resulting onslaught of visitors crashed the Dr. Pepper website and it remained unavailable for large parts of the day (last Sunday). In the end they had to extend the offer an extra day and add more server capacity to handle the load.

Rich Miller over at Data Center Knowledge made a very good observation, “How do you plan for capacity when you make a free offer to 300 million people? Perhaps limiting it to a one-day offer was not such a great idea in the first place.”

No, perhaps not. Here is a traffic graph for the Dr. Pepper website (from Alexa), clearly showing the rather extreme traffic spike it got:

Now the question is, was this an honest miscalculation or a marketing stunt? It sure got people talking


  1. Next time instead of running IIS on Windows, they’ll wise up and use something meant to handle that kind of onslaught..the Sun CoolThreads boxes. Oh and think of the (non-existent) licensing costs, too!

  2. IIS on Windows isn’t why they crashed. It’s because they hadn’t planned on that many people actually going on their website. Sun will go down just as easy if it’s not setup to handle such large traffic. Check that graph. The traffic they had was 10x what they had. From .01 to .1. Which is massive.

  3. Doing it across several days would’ve been much better, a) because the server stress is more manageble and b) because if people think you’re trying to screw them by offering it only on one day they will be doubly determined to download the coupon through spite.

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