Peloton Ad Lampooned and Criticized

Is it sexist, fat-shaming, dystopian, a miscue, or just a missed opportunity? That’s the question marketers at Peloton are being confronted with after reaction to their now-infamous Christmas-themed commercial went off the rails.

The concept is simple: guy buys girl an exercise bike for Christmas. She’s initially uncertain, but comes to love the bike, as well as the culture around it, which is a huge selling point for the high-priced luxury interactive stationary bike. So far, so good, right? Not so much.

Depending on who you ask, the reasons for the barrage of negative feedback about the ad are legion. Is it the expression on the woman’s face? The audacity of the guy to insinuate she needed to exercise? The communal expectations that come along with riding Peloton, including being connected to riders worldwide? The implied commitment, or some or all of the above?

It’s a question Peloton needs to answer posthaste, as its stock took a tumble on the heels of the outcry related to the commercial. How big a dip? Nine percent as of this writing. And, while some expect the stock to rebound – the company remains a darling of investors – that doesn’t mean the brand’s reputation will emerge unscathed.

And, what was some of that reaction?

Some critics and consumers called the 30-second spot “sexist,” while others chose “controlling” or “manipulative.” Some even called it “crass” and “dystopian”; more than a few called Peloton “clueless”, and said they are really missing the mark on connecting with their market.

And what did Peloton have to say about all this? A spokesman brushed off the criticism as “some (people) misinterpreting the commercial…” They followed this admission with a more positive message: “We are encouraged by – and grateful for – the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate…”

Given those statements, it appears Peloton is hoping to chalk all this up to much ado about nothing, just more fleeting drama on Twitter that sounds very bad in real time, but won’t amount to much of anything. It’s a strong stance to take, sticking to their guns in the face of mockery and criticism, but it could prove to be a template for how to deal with the daily furor on Twitter and other social media platforms… or it could turn into yet another cautionary tale.

Time will tell which of these outcomes prove out, but, in the meantime, it’s compelling to watch a clear case of an up-and-coming brand pushing back against the loud and boisterous, reactionary emotion on social media.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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