By now, most people have seen the commercial: a wife receives an exercise bike from her husband for the holidays and vlogs herself using it over the course of a year, culminating in the couple watching the vlog and the wife dropping the one-liner, “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me. Thank you.”
This ad, recently released by Peloton -- the maker of luxury exercise equipment and follow-along video classes -- came under a firestorm of controversy after it went viral online. Twitter users criticized it as “tone-deaf” and “sexist," and some think that the woman looks remarkably scared in the ad for just riding a stationary bike.
However, others have defended the ad. Shaunicy Sturm, a personal trainer and owner of a Peloton bike, says she doesn’t see where the controversy is coming from.“I like the ad, I thought it was positive,'' she said. “I saw it in a positive way...this woman is changing her life through working out. For me, it really just reinforced the ideas of Peloton being there to better yourself.”
Others have agreed with Shaunicy, saying that the ad’s message is being misinterpreted. Users have taken to social media with the hashtag, #iamthepelotonwoman, to share their good experiences with the bike. Some have said that the purpose of the commercial wasn’t to show a physical transformation, but instead, a woman’s journey to become physically and mentally healthier.
Jeffrey Hirsch, a marketing expert and Founder of The Right Brain Studio, said when he first saw the ad, “it made me cringe.” He added that commercials like these often happen for a variety of reasons, ranging from stubborn CEOs with a vision to out-of-touch marketing officers.
“It could be simply a bunch of rich white people being in their bubble and just not seeing something that’s obvious to the rest of us,” Hirsch said.
“We can’t blame any of these brands for being aspirational, nor can we blame their marketing executives for trying to portray their brands in the most positive light,” he wrote in the article. “But you can climb so deeply into the bubble that you lose sight of what your product really is and truly stands for.”
In response to the criticism, Peloton has since published a statement.
“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.”