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Is Peloton the New Vacuum Cleaner?


What are the worst Christmas gifts a husband can give his wife? An iron? Socks? Snow tires? A vacuum cleaner?

Now, it's a Peloton.

At least according to social media. And — let's face it, as marketers, listening to social media has become one of our most important job desciptions.

Peloton is essentially a stationary bike, but it bills itself as "an immersive experience that will keep you coming back for more." And, "more" is certainly what the company gets. Try $2,245. (To go nowhere; really, think about it.)

The company has done a lot of things right. On its website, it weaves an engaging story about its people, process, and product. Bicycling magazine, a Hearst publication, raves that "The Peloton bike brings the spin class party to your house" and that "With live and recorded spin classes, it's so much more than a bike." Although it's undeniably expensive, they offer 0% 39-month financing. And, their target audience would quickly spend as much at Soul Cycle or some other high-end gym.

So, what's the problem? The TV advertising they recently launched for the holidays.

In the ad, a husband gives his wife a Peloton. To say she is surprised is an understatement. The poor woman looks positively terrified. So, she does what any self-respecting person would do in the digital age; she uses her mobile phone to record her Peloton experience. At first, she's intimidated. She doesn't appreciate the 6:00 am workouts. She's concerned she won't be able to keep up. But, then, she starts to feel better about it. She owns it. She revels in the fact that the live instructor gives her a shout-out. And, a year later, she plays the video she's made for her husband so he knows how much she treasures his gift. (Because, apparently, this couple doesn't engage in anything as analog as a conversation.) The ad is professionally produced, well-acted, memorable, persuasive.

So, again, what's the problem?

Well, according to a groundswell of online comments, it all starts with motive. Why did the guy think the bike was a good gift to begin with? Is he fat-shaming his (not at all fat) spouse? Does he think she's too lazy? Was Macy's all out of socks? Does she have an irrational fear of cycling that he's trying to help her beat?

On Twitter, a user named Sydney Chandler tweeted, "WTF Peloton. You have a 100 lb woman in a commercial looking like a deer in the headlights, exercising on a bike to be a 90 lb woman and that's to be applauded? Hell NO! This crap is dangerous (anorexia), sexist and just plain stupid and out-of-touch. A bad message...FULL STOP."

The only thing better than criticizing an over-the-top, misguided ad is making spoofs of it. So, the Internet now boasts multiple memes and humorous homages to the Peloton ad. One clever execution, by a woman named Eva Victor, follows the real ad scene by scene — but with a markedly edited script:

"Six a.m. My husband is sleeping soundly next to me, but I couldn't sleep a wink because what kind of sociopath gets his wife a FUCKING STATIONARY BIKE? SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE HELL? WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY?"

As in the original spot, she eventually delivers a video to her husband ... along with divorce papers. The spoof has more than four million views.

Finally, actor Ryan Reynolds hired the actual Peloton actress, Monica Ruiz, to star in a commercial for his Aviation Gin brand. In the ad, she's clearly suffering from PTSD, which her gal pals treat with liberal amounts of gin. "It's going to be okay," one assures her. And later she's comforted with "You look great, by the way."

Of course, the real question is will all this buzz help or hinder Peloton sales?

We'll just have to wait and see.

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