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Peloton defends Christmas advert – but with reaction to "male fantasy" spot knocking $1bn off company value, has the damage already been done?

Fallout from seasonal slot has certainly slimmed down indoor bike brand’s share price

Peloton has defended its Christmas advert following the backlash it received the internet this week – but with $1 billion knocked off the indoor bike and treadmill business’s market value in the past 48 hours and warnings about the effect on its brand image, the damage may already have been done.

The 30-second spot shows an already slim woman being gifted a Peloton exercise bike by her husband for Christmas and then recording herself using it over the ensuing 12 months to produce a video for his present the following year.

> When ads backfire - what went wrong with THAT Peloton spot?

The advert has been criticised primarily on grounds of being sexist and reinforcing body stereotypes as well as being unrealistic, with some describing the woman’s expression as akin to that of someone in a hostage situation; one comedian even produced her own spoof version, which ended with her presenting her husband with divorce papers.

Others have taken Peloton to task on the ultra-aspirational lifestyle this and its other adverts display – the bike taking pride of place in a perfectly kept luxury house or apartment straight out of an interior design magazine, though to be fair there’s no shortage of brands on the planet that same criticism could be levelled at.

Yesterday, Peloton defended the ad, claiming that it had been “misinterpreted” by its detractors.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the company said: “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.

“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 ad has continued to appear on US TV channels, although there have been rumours stateside that the company may pull it in a bid to end any negative publicity.

Ad Age reports that Justin Patterson, an analyst from investment bankers Raymond James, wrote in a research note that while the current “significant backlash” was likely to be only temporary, “we do believe Peloton may review its marketing strategy, given the frequency in which its ads are parodied on social media.” 

But consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, a professor at Golden Gate University, was scathing about the spot, saying: “It’s a complete male fantasy ad.”

She said it could encourage men to become so-called “gifting heroes,” as well as wanting “skinnier spouses.”

Yarrow added: “They created a conversation about the ultra-thin, perfect model – clearly not an actress – getting even more perfect.

“It’s overdone, hokey and because of that, memorable and worth talking about,” but she warned that it may “dent the image of the company to women going forward.”

Peloton – which describes itself as a media company, despite its bike costing more than $2,000 and treadmill $4,000, with the business model based on customers buying the hardware then taking out monthly subscriptions to access content – had a lukewarm reception when it floated on the New York Stock Exchange in September.

On the first day of trading, its share price fell, costing investors $900 million. That loss had subsequently been recouped and more, with the shares trading at around 15 per cent above the IPO price at the start of the week – until the holiday ad went viral.

$942 million was knocked off the company’s capitalisation on Tuesday alone, with a further fall yesterday bringing the drop in market value to more than $1 billion.

Curiously, the ad – entitled The Gift that Gives Back – has been around since early November.

However, it’s only been in recent days that it has attracted widespread attention, perhaps as marketing efforts online and via TV were ramped up, with the Christmas shopping period only kicking in fully in the US after Thanksgiving – Black Friday may be a recent introduction to the UK retail scene, but the phrase has been used on the other side of the Atlantic for more than half a century.  

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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27 comments

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ktache | 4 years ago
0 likes

The (HRH) Prince they call Andrew?

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Judge dreadful | 4 years ago
0 likes

There's no such thing as bad publicity.

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vonhelmet replied to Judge dreadful | 4 years ago
2 likes
Judge dreadful wrote:

There's no such thing as bad publicity.

Not really true, though, is it?

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Daclu Trelub | 4 years ago
1 like

"I noticed yer gettin' a wee bit fat, so here's yir pressie."

"Ye cheeky bastard!"

 

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Rick_Rude | 4 years ago
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Why are people who are fat and not bothered about being fat bothered that other people are bothered about being fat and want to lose weight? Seems like thin-shaming to me. 

Peloton is just one of many tools to lose weight. 

I wonder if they'd brought out an advert where a woman buys her typically couch-ridden husband a Peloton bike they're had been all this outrage? 

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mpulsiv | 4 years ago
0 likes

This ad and discussion has gone viral. It's all over the web as soon as you type "peloton..." in the search engine. For the love of god, keep this crap out of cycling realm. 

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Sriracha | 4 years ago
2 likes

He gives his spouse a gift designed to maintain/improve physical health. That's sexist? Suppose they re-edited the footage to make it a same-sex couple. Same exact story. Still sexist? Why should a man not be solicitous of his wife's health? Why would a wife not wish to maintain her physical health, even if doing so pleased her husband.

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Nick T | 4 years ago
3 likes

Aviation Gin hiring the actress for their "follow on" advert was a master stroke 

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hawkinspeter replied to Nick T | 4 years ago
0 likes

Nick T wrote:

Aviation Gin hiring the actress for their "follow on" advert was a master stroke 

Noice!

https://youtu.be/H2t7lknrK28

I was reading this morning about the actor playing the husband is "complaining" about people giving him real-life abuse for the Peloton ad, but I think he's just trying to increase his exposure as he's not got the most memorable face.

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brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 4 years ago
0 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

Nick T wrote:

Aviation Gin hiring the actress for their "follow on" advert was a master stroke 

Noice!

https://youtu.be/H2t7lknrK28

I was reading this morning about the actor playing the husband is "complaining" about people giving him real-life abuse for the Peloton ad, but I think he's just trying to increase his exposure as he's not got the most memorable face.

Hey, life moves pretty fast when you're Ryan Reynolds!

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armb | 4 years ago
0 likes

For those who do care about this sort of thing, there's an interesting thread on what's wrong with the advert from a copywriter's point of view, quite apart from any sexism.
(It's effectively written in the second person, which is hard to get right.)

https://twitter.com/amyhoy/status/1202723256408535040

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wokecyclist | 4 years ago
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So,  this ad attacks women?

It is out of step with the times?

would the ad have been more acceptable if the husband was identifying as a female swallowing testosterone blocking pills and beating the s*** out of his wife?

All the social justice warriors are insane.  You cant get pissy about this ad and also defend the trans man competing in female sport.

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vonhelmet replied to wokecyclist | 4 years ago
0 likes
wokecyclist wrote:

So,  this ad attacks women?

It is out of step with the times?

would the ad have been more acceptable if the husband was identifying as a female swallowing testosterone blocking pills and beating the s*** out of his wife?

All the social justice warriors are insane.  You cant get pissy about this ad and also defend the trans man competing in female sport.

It was definitely worth signing up to post this.

I'm sure there are people upset about both this and and the Rachel McKinnon farce...

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to wokecyclist | 4 years ago
1 like

wokecyclist wrote:

So,  this ad attacks women?

It is out of step with the times?

would the ad have been more acceptable if the husband was identifying as a female swallowing testosterone blocking pills and beating the s*** out of his wife?

All the social justice warriors are insane.  You cant get pissy about this ad and also defend the trans man competing in female sport.

My take on it. The advert would have been easily fixed if the "video" of the year would have had her not being able to use it because of him being on it or a scene where she is exercising and he is looking after the daughter. The attack is pretty much down to him splashing the cash on his partner to (which he obviously has looking at the apartment) to stop her from living her own life, going out and socialising and leaving her to keep looking sexy and look after the daughter at home whilst he has his own life.  

However for some of the attacks on this advert, then jewellry and clothes xmas adverts would also need to be targetted as well if bought by the husband for the wife. 

Love the username by the way, how long did it take to think that one up? Shame you didn't use snowflakes as well. 

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to wokecyclist | 4 years ago
2 likes

wokecyclist wrote:

So,  this ad attacks women?

It is out of step with the times?

would the ad have been more acceptable if the husband was identifying as a female swallowing testosterone blocking pills and beating the s*** out of his wife?

All the social justice warriors are insane.  You cant get pissy about this ad and also defend the trans man competing in female sport.

 

You right-wing social injustice warriors are really in no position to call anyone 'snowflakes'.  Just look how worked-up you get about anyone saying anything at all negative about something you are weirdly invested in.

 

And  I would suggest an ad that featured domestic violence wouldn't have been considered acceptable, so no idea what ponit youare making.

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yellowbirdrs | 4 years ago
0 likes

Totally mis-judged, now we can't give them noting too tight, short, for get them fit and noting for the house .

i'm not a peloton user but I didn't  mind when my wife gave me  a direct shaft swift roller. 

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hawkinspeter replied to yellowbirdrs | 4 years ago
7 likes

yellowbirdrs wrote:

Totally mis-judged, now we can't give them noting too tight, short, for get them fit and noting for the house .

i'm not a peloton user but I didn't  mind when my wife gave me  a direct shaft swift roller. 

Probably too much information shared there.

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ktache | 4 years ago
0 likes

...Something to do with Trump, he keeps going on about one.

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Compact Corned Beef | 4 years ago
1 like

It’s not, but those ads are twatty faux aspirational bollocks that don’t include cycling, so aren’t likely to make it onto this website.

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Jackson | 4 years ago
1 like

Peloton's share price is still up 45% this month. Let's have an ad with a fat 50 year old man riding a turbo next to the lawnmower in his garden shed then, maybe they'd be doing even better.

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JMG DC | 4 years ago
3 likes

Wow. I'm not a Peloton user, or even a fan, but the furor over this ad is bonkers. How is this ad different from ads showing a spouse receiving an Audi, Mercedes Benz, Lexus, etc. with a big red bow as a Christmas gift. Those ads feature good-looking models and luxury lifestyles. That is the aspirational nature of marketing. Peloton sells lots of bikes and I expect that a majority of Peloton users are women, so an ad showing a woman receiving a Peloton bike as a gift makes perfect sense to me.

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Simon E replied to JMG DC | 4 years ago
1 like

JMG DC wrote:

Wow. I'm not a Peloton user, or even a fan, but the furor over this ad is bonkers. How is this ad different from ads showing a spouse receiving an Audi, Mercedes Benz, Lexus, etc. with a big red bow as a Christmas gift. Those ads feature good-looking models and luxury lifestyles. That is the aspirational nature of marketing. Peloton sells lots of bikes and I expect that a majority of Peloton users are women, so an ad showing a woman receiving a Peloton bike as a gift makes perfect sense to me.

Just because you don't find it offensive that doesn't mean no-one else should. We're not all snowflakes in the same way that not all middle aged men are gammons.

Comparing the subtext of this spin bike advert with buying your spouse/partner a flashy car suggests you may have missed the point(s) people were trying to make about it.

I don't have a problem with mocking an advert, it's a way for people to communicate that perhaps the advert is somewhat out of step with the times.

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Kendalred | 4 years ago
1 like

Silly ad, a little mis-judged and perhaps a bit patronising bordering on sexist, but is it really worth all this fuss?

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PRSboy replied to Kendalred | 4 years ago
1 like

Kendalred wrote:

Silly ad, a little mis-judged and perhaps a bit patronising bordering on sexist, but is it really worth all this fuss?

Not really, but folk love a witch-hunt!

 

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to PRSboy | 4 years ago
1 like
PRSboy wrote:

Kendalred wrote:

Silly ad, a little mis-judged and perhaps a bit patronising bordering on sexist, but is it really worth all this fuss?

Not really, but folk love a witch-hunt!

 

You don't know what a 'witch hunt' is, do you?

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zanf replied to PRSboy | 4 years ago
0 likes

PRSboy wrote:
Kendalred wrote:

Silly ad, a little mis-judged and perhaps a bit patronising bordering on sexist, but is it really worth all this fuss?

Not really, but folk love a witch-hunt!

This is the latest in a series of mistakes by this company that are constantly making an arse of themselves.

The threatened to sue a Youtuber for using the word 'Peloton' and this was after they themselves  were sued for £150 million for using copyrighted music without licence or authorisation.

The advert was completely wrongfooted and they've ended up with egg on their face....again.

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Awavey replied to Kendalred | 4 years ago
0 likes
Kendalred wrote:

Silly ad, a little mis-judged and perhaps a bit patronising bordering on sexist, but is it really worth all this fuss?

Maybe the fuss is all part of the campaign...no such thing as bad publicity & certainly getting them talked about more than just the ad would on its own.

Their share price volatility is probably more linked to unreasonably high VC/investor estimates on their profitability,not one stupid ad that was clearly made for the US market and not a global audience

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