Little did Peloton know that the ad that began with this simple exclamation would spark a global controversy. By now you’ve either seen or at least heard about Peloton’s recent holiday blunder. The 30-second commercial titled, “The Gift That Gives Back,” has stirred both controversy and mockery among audiences. From comedic spoofs and outrage over perceived sexist and classist undertones to the company’s stocks falling, the spot has generated conversation and results that the Peloton brand didn’t anticipate.
“We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them,” a Peloton representative said in a statement Wednesday.
“Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey,” the statement said. “While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.” – The New York Times
Peloton’s efforts to convey a relatable fitness journey, while admirable and surely made with the best intentions, missed the mark. But what was it about this ad specifically that struck such a cord? There was the backlash regarding the husband’s demeanor, the camera angles, the facial expressions of the “Peloton Wife.” But it was more than that. The ad didn’t feel genuine, it didn’t evoke inspiration or pathos. It was…well, awkward.
Here are some thoughts from Deanna Tomaselli and Ashley Jones:
What did you think about the ad?
D.T.: When I first saw it while watching TV before all the uproar, I thought they missed the mark and it was corny. Especially compared to last year’s holiday ad where the husband buys the bike for his wife and secretly uses it for himself (there’s one where the wife buys for the husband, too.) Clever! Then I saw the online reactions and just laughed. Do I think it’s sexist? I wouldn’t go that far; I would say it’s simply a bad ad.
A.J.: I saw the ad before seeing any of the online commentary and opinions, and my immediate response was “Oh man, this makes me cringe.” And I wasn’t cringing because I was offended in any way, the ad was honestly just laughable to me. I didn’t think it would receive this kind of negative attention, particularly surrounding sexism. The claims about the husband being abusive are a stretch. It simply lacked a powerful, resonating message.
What would you have done differently?
D.T.: If they want to follow her journey, I would have changed it to her buying it herself. That changes the dynamic. It’s her choice and her journey.
A.J.: I think if they wanted to stick with a “gift giving” theme it would have been more powerful to have a story behind WHY she wanted one. Did she have a health scare that warrants the need for more exercise? Is she fulfilling a lifelong dream to run a marathon and this will help with training? Does she have a beloved friend or sibling who she used to exercise with that now lives far away, but the bike enables them to work out together again? Some kind of storyline would have at least helped us as an audience root for her and detract a lot of this “sexism” talk.
What do you think makes this ad resonate so awkwardly with audiences?
D.T.: Peloton ads have always been kind of a joke (just take these memes). This one though, she just looks terrified. It’s a home workout for crying out loud! No one will see you. Plus, the way she is Instagram storying (so it looks like) is just weird.
What’s important to recognize, is that Peloton is an aspirational brand. The bikes and treads are certainly not cheap, so clearly, they are trying to reach a target demo, which I think always comes across in their messaging and advertising. I think people took this TOO far and should have kept it more fun, like the memes above. I also liked Peloton’s response since I would have been disappointed as well. All in all, I think people are making too big of a deal about this, but Peloton should get called out because the ad is bad. But, I would still like a bike. 😊
A.J.: I think it was how overly dramatic the entire commercial was. It was difficult to feel inspired by an already in-shape woman talking about her (for some reason?) scary, at-home journey to…being more in shape? On her incredibly expensive stationary bike? The actress’s facial expressions were distracting and the script was just so over-the-top. I’m not bashing the fact that this woman is healthy and wants to push herself to be the best, but it’s just not hitting home the message I think Peloton wanted to.
Don’t get me wrong, I love an ad that causes a stir because interesting conversation and perspectives ensue. The response to this was reminiscent to me of the polarizing effects of Gillette’s “The Best Men Can Be” ad. However, Gillette’s ad had purpose, a timely and powerful message. This just lacked authenticity.