Was Peloton Ad An Insult --- Or Brilliant Marketing?

After the online pushback (that generated a vast amount of media coverage) you might think the folks at Peloton would be beating their creative team with bike chains for producing such a tone-deaf TV commercial.

But you would be wrong. Not only has the company not apologized, it has continued to run the spot and put out a statement defending it. 

Among professional marketers, the trend seems to be slightly away from criticism to congratulations for creating incredibly high awareness just as most folks have started their holiday shopping.

Among jokesters, there has been nothing but derision for what many see as a totally unnecessary luxury item. This thread is about the funniest. 

Peloton costs about $2,250 and $40 a month thereafter if you want to “attend” interactive classes on the 22-inch video screen over the handlebars. It seems to have a bit of a cult following -- although you can accomplish pretty much the same workout results in free classes at the nearest YMCA. 



It's too early for history to judge whether the commercial was a huge mistake or unintentionally brilliant for putting the brand top of mind with potential buyers. But it does reaffirm the notion that ads don’t have to be widely liked by viewers to be effective. 

Oscar Wilde wrote: “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about,” and P. T. Barnum is credited with saying, “There's no such thing as bad publicity.” While we both know that is not absolutely true (see impeachment coverage), you simply cannot assume that criticism of an ad means it doesn’t do its job.

Often, the opposite is true. History is littered with ads that the public adored, but failed to lift awareness or drive sales, such as the Taco Bell chihuahua, the Energizer bunny, California Raisins, and Alka-Seltzer's "That's a spicy meat-a-ball!"

There are plenty of ads out there I really hate. But some of them have been running for a very long time (or a derivation on the same theme starring the same annoying characters), so I have to assume they are producing sales for their brands.

Long gone are the days that advertisers ran ads and wondered which half of them weren’t working. With today’s relatively sophisticated attribution, brands can find out in short order if their commercials are driving inquires, conversions, downloads or whatever is the desired ROI.

It remains to be seen whether the backlash against Peloton’s ad hurts the reputation of the company or creates something like an organized boycott.  It seems there are lots of women who were NOT demeaned by the ad or who feel that the husband was NOT casting aspersions with the gift. 

What did you think? Was the ad a big mistake or a huge win for Peloton?

6 comments about "Was Peloton Ad An Insult --- Or Brilliant Marketing?".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 6, 2019 at 10:30 a.m.

    It's not to early to call it a failure, unfair to Peloton or not. Everyone who buys one now or soon as a Christmas surprise may get some serious pushback from a spouse! I recommend sticking to the Lexus with the big red bow.

  2. David Mountain from Marketing and Advertising Direction, December 6, 2019 at 11:42 a.m.

    The brand damage is real. I bet that in five years, this will be taught as a cautionary tale for a property that is no longer in business.

  3. Margaret Minuth from Marketing, December 6, 2019 at 1:11 p.m.

    I wasn't a fan basically because of the expressions of the woman. She looked fearful, insecure, and a little bit unhappy, which is probably part of the backlash. I think Peloton missed the mark because with all the personas and targeting, they didn't get it right. They market to me ALL the time, but while I workout using YouTube, my demographics don't fit their model. I get so sick of their ads and skip them all the time - even before this became an issue. They just don't resonate with me, so for THAT alone, they fail. But as a marketer, I really dislike when companies brag about "any noise is good noise." That's such an inexperienced response. The real question is does ANY of this move the needle in either direction, removing the seasonality of the product. Sure it's all a Buzz now, but I can tell you I STILL don't buy Exxon gas since the Valdez.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 6, 2019 at 7:57 p.m.

    There is a new Medicare ad out which is also disgusting. It shows a woman on a row house porch with a computer in front of her begging her husband if she can check about comparing their Medicare coverage. Really ?

  5. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications, December 6, 2019 at 9:37 p.m.

    Oh my.....

  6. Bart Foreman from EndGame Marketing Solutions, December 7, 2019 at 2:25 p.m.

    I'm taking a different point of view after reading so many negative comments, especially that she was to thin, too fit, too sexist, too whatever. The line that said said "I didn't realize how much it would change me," was way off because she doesn't look any different. However, people exercise to stay fit, stay thin. They exercise to inprove muscle tone, cardio, etc. Bottom line, I like that it is quick, energitic and upbeat. Thanks to social media, ithas been blown out of proportion by a lot of nitpickers with too much time on their hands. Welcome to the 2020s where there will nevr be a shortage of critics. 

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