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Social Media Outrage Over Peloton Ad is Baseless

By Steve Smith

It’s kind of crazy – a TV commercial by Peloton Interactive that does exactly what it’s supposed to do – sell a product in a compelling way – has been excoriated on social media. To the point where, as reported in the New York Times, Bloomberg and other outlets, Peloton’s stock fell by about 9 percent the day after online outrage about the ad came to a head.

Sure, it’s a product that most people cannot afford, and the ad portrays a kind of idyllic home/family lifestyle. But what’s the difference between this one and advertising for other upscale products, like jewelry and luxury cars?

In their rush to criticize, social media haters have labeled this advertising as sexist. This is presumably because the woman’s husband bought her the Peloton, enabling her transformation. She’s already pretty trim, so it’s clearly not intended to be a “before and after” story about weight loss. 

The story told here – and told quite well in my opinion – is about the woman’s confidence. Most people will likely agree that confidence is much more attractive than a low neckline or a sparkly, obscenely overpriced bauble. If that’s the case, then where’s the social media outrage over the advertising by jewelry retailers suggesting that a woman will completely lose her mind when given anything with diamonds in it? Jewelry, for the record, can’t actually improve your cardiovascular system. 

My opinion may not be in the majority, but then I’m a branding guy. As expressed by some more perceptive social media opinions, perhaps this woman wanted to become a better cyclist? Or get back into shape after taking time off from an aggressive training regimen? The advertiser’s intent is for this character to be seen as a real person, not an object.

What the social media haters fail to consider is the strategy that no doubt has gone into this storytelling. Easy to hate, not so easy to stop and do a little thinking. 

I hope the ad isn’t pulled.
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