'Tis the season for sales, shopping, and — in the case of Peloton — highly questionable gift giving ads. The indoor bike startup that’s basically trying to turn your living room into a makeshift SoulCycle recently released a holiday-themed commercial. The release was nothing special — this is pretty commonplace, especially with Cyber Monday deals abuzz, but it’s the content of the ad that’s got social media screaming — and not in a good way.
On Wednesday, a Peleton spokesperson responded to criticism of their recent 30-second holiday ad in a statement to CBS. Although they suggested that the ad was "misunderstood," critics and Twitter mongers alike have pointed out the commercial is dripping in all sorts of problematic undertones. And in true millennial fashion, the internet loves to hate it.
For starters, the commercial begins with an already-thin woman coming down the stairs of her too-immaculate, perfectly minimalist home. She’s hand-in-hand with her adorable lookalike daughter, covering her eyes from the Christmas morning surprise from her husband that awaits.
“A Peloton?!” she shouts, seemingly more terrified than thrilled. We then cut to an expertly edited montage of the woman in question — soon identified as “Grace from Boston” — filming herself seemingly every single day for a year as she rides her very pricey indoor bike over the course of a year. And thus, the ad provided a flurry of Twitter fodder provoking a number of questions: Why is she so scared of riding a bike in her own home? Isn't it kind of a weird gift to get from your husband? And also, who is she filming this "journey" for?
It’s not super clear why she’s documenting her entire Peloton journey (or for whom). At least not until 365 days later, on the following Christmas, when the woman presents her husband with a video of all her Peloton milestones (riding five days in a row, riding at 6 a.m., getting a shout-out from one of the brand’s virtual instructors). “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me,” she says to the camera, as Tal Bachman’s 1998 one-hit wonder “She’s So High” rises to a crescendo in the background.
In theory, it’s supposed to be an inspiring moment. But in practice, it falls flat. Some critics pointed out the inherent sexism of the ad. Good intentions aside, a husband getting his wife an exercise bike doesn’t exactly send the most, erm, loving message. In an era when body acceptance and body positivity are shifting our cultural conversations, casting a thin actress to portray her revolutionary “transformation” in a year’s time isn’t exactly impactful or groundbreaking.
The company, known for its overly aspirational ads that mostly show fit bodies riding their bikes in sprawling, gorgeous home spaces, said they've received an "outpouring of support" for the ad. Realism certainly isn’t what the brand is known for capturing and conveying, but marketing mishaps aside, the ad definitely got people talking. And if you don't believe it, see for yourself.