They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity. That seems to be what Peloton has decided as well. Rather than admit they misjudged this rather badly, the company had decided to pretend its creepy Christmas ad is actually sweet and charming, at least some people see it that way. CNBC reported earlier today that the company released a statement defending the ad:
“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 company spokesperson said in an email. “Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey. 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 company also released four supportive messages. All four are written in reaction to the backlash against the company. Someone named Ally wrote, “I’m sure Peloton has an awesome, hard working, and skilled team of marketers—I hope they keep their heads up!” Another fan, Melissa, writes about her sister-in-law who was given a bike by her own daughter and how that kept her going during cancer treatments. It’s a nice story and would have made a much better ad than the horrible one the company actually produced. There’s also a note from a guy named Rich who sounds to me like he’s hoping Peloton will give him a free bike: “My wife and I love your ad and if we could afford one would absolutely buy one ourselves…Every time your ad airs we both look to each other and say we wish we could get one.”
Good luck, Rich. Honestly, for the mileage the company is getting out of your unsolicited defense, I think they owe you one of those $2500 bikes and maybe a year’s subscription to the service.
I was writing about this on Twitter a bit yesterday and one person in particular seemed very defensive. He argued that many women in modern marriages would be grateful to receive a bike like this. I politely suggested the ad was still terrible even if that were true but he kept trying to convince me there was nothing wrong with it. Finally I just replied, “You bought your wife one of these didn’t you.” To his credit, he admitted it. He did buy his wife one and clearly that’s why the criticism of the ad bothered him. I suspect that may be true for many of the ad’s defenders. No one likes to be told their own choices reflect badly on them. And really, they don’t. I don’t care if someone buys one of these bikes but the ad is definitely sub par.
Over at NBC, one writer is arguing that what’s truly offensive about the ad isn’t the creepy husband and his terrified wife but the heteronormative classism:
In an ideal world, advertisers would strive to be inclusive. But Peloton appeals to a particular demographic — affluent suburbanites with enough space and income to park a 135-pound stationary bike somewhere in their house — and the ad captured that. Yes, it could have been better. The couple could have embarked on a health-conscious endeavor together. They could have just high-fived at the end. They could have skipped the Tal Bachman soundtrack. The commercial doesn’t reflect the best of what advertising can be, but it does reflect the context of its product…
The idea of wealthy Americans paying exorbitant sums of money in the name of health isn’t new. Peloton’s rise has coincided with a larger, more pervasive culture of wellness — one overrun with privilege and high-end consumerism. Boutique fitness gyms are everywhere, from Orange Theory and Barry’s Boot Camp to Soul Cycle and Pure Barre. Gwyneth Paltrow, one of the original proprietors of health products the internet loves to hate, is currently offering an annual “wellness junkie’s gift guide” that includes a $70-a-day meal program, a $400 handheld massager and a $2,200 home rowing machine.
The obvious wealth of the couple in the ad didn’t offend me but the author does have a point about this being a very overpriced status symbol. That’s not just what it is, that’s what Peloton is marketing it to be.
I had my carpenter build a $9,000 finished wood riser for my Peloton bike in my glass-enclosed zen garden/home gym pic.twitter.com/VJSOjctYtO
— Clue Heywood (@ClueHeywood) January 28, 2019
Frankly, this entire pitch seems borrowed from Bowflex which has been selling this same rich and perfect fantasy along with its overpriced home equipment since the mid-1980s. Some people look at that horrible dumpster fire of an ad and see their dream life, or their better selves, or something. Those are the only people Peloton cares about pleasing because unless they hook you on that fantasy, most people will balk at dropping $2500+ on a stationary bike with a computer monitor that also has a monthly subscription fee. Bottom line: The really scary thing about this ad is that for some people it works.