A Peloton Ad Goes Viral, Not Exactly in a Good Way

It's being ridiculed on social media as sexist, elitist, and generally cringe-inducing
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2019 12:09 PM CST
Updated Dec 7, 2019 1:00 PM CST

If the old adage of "all publicity is good publicity" is true, then Peloton has a terrific ad on its hands. If the opinions of lots of people on social media count for anything, the ad is closer to a sexist, elitist, cringe-inducing dud. Either way, the spot for a stationary bike is the buzziest of the holiday shopping season so far. Coverage:

  • The ad: Watch the 30-second spot here. A husband gives his wife a Peloton exercise bike for Christmas, and she keeps a video diary over the course of the year. It's the details that are ticking people off.
  • The critics: Lots, and we mean lots, of people online are mocking the ad. This tweet, for example, is in wide circulation, complaining that a "116 lb woman’s YEARLONG fitness journey to becoming a 112 lb woman who says 'I didn’t realize how much this would change me'" is a little ridiculous. (The ad doesn't actually give her weight stats, but she's quite thin at the start—and the end.)
  • The parody: This parody video (note language) by Eva Victor pretty much sums up the views of many. Spoiler: It ends with divorce papers.

  • But it's working? CNBC notes that the company's stock rose nearly 5% on the Monday after Thanksgiving, when this criticism was in full fury. Plus, the stock is up more than 25% since it debuted in September.
  • Not the first time: Early this year, Peloton took a lot of flak online for commercials that showed the bikes set up only in expensive-looking homes, PR Week reported. A company exec took note of the mockery but said she was "also proud to see Peloton become a big enough brand that it is now part of the cultural conversation." She also predicted this "will not be our last opportunity to hear feedback on our coveted brand product." Which raises a question via Fast Company: Is Peloton trolling us with these ads? Jeff Beer thinks it's more that Peleton has a "complete lack of self-awareness" for its marketing strategy.
  • The image: Think "young, fit, and wealthy" for the Peloton brand, explains the Atlantic in a profile of the company. Indeed, the bike in the ad costs $2,245 and has a monthly $39 membership fee for classes. Despite the cost, it's popular: Peloton has a ridership of more than 1 million people, more than SoulCycle. But as with many startups, it is not yet profitable.
  • Advice on the commercial: Ad exec Shelley Zalis isn't as down on the ad as others, but she wishes it ended differently. The woman turns to the man as if seeking his approval. "It was just a moment where we could have had her exert her self-confidence and her independence—versus turning to him for validation," she tells CNBC.
(More advertising stories.)

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