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It’s not every day that you see an ad for an exercise bike taking the world by storm, but this viral commercial for Peloton did just that.
Three weeks ago Peloton, the company that is well known for being an fitness empire and a media juggernaut that was being touted as the “Apple of Fitness”, posted a Holiday ad for the cult-favorite bike to Youtube. The ad seemed innocuous enough: the 30-second spot followed the fitness journey of a young wife and mother who is gifted a Peloton bike for Christmas by her husband.
As the woman’s fitness journey continues, we see her documenting her daily workouts for her husband to watch. She congratulates herself for working out “five days in a row”, asking her husband if he’s “surprised”. We see her getting up at 6am to hop on the bike, lamenting her early wake-up call. At the end of the spot, we see the young mom watching the footage with her husband in the present. “A year ago, I didn’t know how much this would change me”, she says to the camera. In the present, we see the wife looking looking nervous and fidgety as she watches her husband watch the footage. Some viewers interpreted her behavior as if she were working out for her husband’s for approval.
A few weeks after the commercial was posted to Youtube, the ad went viral–and not for the brand’s intended purpose.
Critics immediately called out the ad for what they perceived as its sexist messaging. Not only that, some viewers interpreted Ruiz’s face throughout the advertisement as “terrified”. As one Twitter user put it, the ad tells the tone-deaf story of a “thin, gorgeous woman transforming into a still-thin, still-gorgeous woman who’s terrified her husband won’t think she’s grateful”.
After the ad seemed to take over the internet over the weekend, the identity of the “Peloton Wife” actress was finally revealed to be Monica Ruiz, a California-based actress of Latina descent. Ruiz, for her part, seems to be rather rattled by all of the negative attention aimed at the ad.
In a statement to People magazine, she called the Peloton team “lovely to work with” and said she was “grateful” for the job opportunity. As for the the backlash, she seems to be surprised by it. “Although I’m an actress, I am not quite comfortable being in spotlight,” she said to People. “So to say I was shocked and overwhelmed by the attention this week (especially the negative) is an understatement”.
In a hilarious turn of events, Ryan Reynolds recruited Ruiz to star in a commercial for his company, Aviation Gin. The catch? She’s playing the same character as in the Peloton commercial.
In a spot titled “The Gift that Doesn’t Give Back”, Ruiz is seen at a bar surrounded by two girlfriends. They look at her warily as she stares off into the distance, nursing a martini. They tell her she’s “safe here” and that she “looks great”. Ruiz, ostensibly traumatized by her husband’s controlling behavior, can only say that the gin is “really smooth” before chugging her cocktail as well as her friend’s.
Naturally, the Aviation Gin ad went over like gangbusters on social media, with viewers calling it “genius” and “brilliant”. As for Ruiz, she seems to be much more at peace with the entire Peloton debacle. “When Ryan and his production team called about Aviation Gin, they helped me find some humor in the situation,” she told People. “I am grateful to both Peloton and now Aviation Gin for the work and giving me the opportunity to do what I love to do”.
Of course, since the ad originally went viral on Twitter, there are no shortage of Tweets riffing on the bizarre saga of the Peloton commercial.
Honestly, you could spend hours scrolling through hilarious memes and #hottakes centered around this one 30-second commercial. Something tells us Peloton didn’t intend this sort of reaction when they were brainstorming this ad.
This person summed up the weird vibe of the commercial perfectly:
I'm sure peloton is a great company and bike, but the lady's face and furrowed brow, as if she's flat-out terrified and eager to please, and the selfie vlog thing was just…weird.
There’s something off-putting about how she seems to be embarking on this year-long fitness journey to please her husband.
This Twitter user had to explain why people were so irritated at the tone-deaf commercial:
i will try. the commercial is ridiculous. a beautiful thin woman looks terrified to try a Peloton. why? is she afraid her husband read her mind and knows she hates it. i’m guessing the creative team at the agency is a bunch of dudes! did this go through market research? https://t.co/lM6ug6OEwV
It’s definitely true that a lot of people workout to feel strong and healthy–their appearance has nothing to do with it.
This person was highly complimentary of Ruiz’s acting skills
I'm kind of obsessed with this opening shot and the dozen or so different emotions readable in Monica Ruiz's face. It's maybe the best use of extreme close-up since Tak Fujimoto shot THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. #AviationGinpic.twitter.com/EvKSt2Q610
Peloton’s latest advertisement for it’s $2,245 stationary bikes is sparking both outrage and satirical videos that mock the unlikely journey of a wife being happily surprised to receive exercise equipment from her husband for Christmas. “Ok, you ready,” the husband asks his wife, with one hand holding the hand of a young toddler and the other covering her eyes. “A Peloton!” she happily exclaims when she sees the exercise equipment. What ensues is a 25-second supercut of her ‘journey’ of waking up at 6 a.m. to leave her sleeping husband in bed while she rides her bike and ends with her telling the camera, “A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me. Thank you.” Later, we find out that the supercut video is one of her own making, meant to be a thank you gift to her husband for buying the elite stationary bike. When the video cuts, she turns to her husband on the couch, seeking his approval, as he rubs her back and laughs.
The Internet is breaking down every problematic aspect of the advertisement, down to the worried look on the 116-pound protagonist’s face as she says, “I’m a little nervous,” to the point that Peloton’s stock has actually fallen by 10 percent. The video has been viewed on YouTube 1.1 million times, liked just 978 times and disliked 7,200 times.
Problem #1: Misogyny. All the misogyny.
Peloton marketed their campaign as “The Gift That Keeps On Giving.” The montage of this thin woman telling her husband, “Alright, first ride. I’m a little nervous, but excited. Let’s do this,” has elicited a wide range of reactions. Some people are concerned about her performance of gratitude for a husband who, let us repeat, bought her a piece of exercise equipment for Christmas. Given that the woman’s gift to her husband the next year is a montage of her fitness journey, some are concerned that “the gift that keeps on giving,” is marketed toward husbands who want their wives to get fit for them. Last year, Peloton created a similar advert that depicts a husband buying his rail-thin wife a Peloton and called it “Get What You Give – Hers.”
Problem #2: Would there really be no emotional complexity to being surprised to receive exercise equipment from your life partner?
“Nothing says ‘maybe you should lose a few pounds’ like gifting your already rail-thin life partner a Peloton,” tweeted Siraj Hashmi (@SirajHashmi). “My husband got me a Peloton bike for Christmas! Nothing weird about that. You get me.” Twitter personality Eva Victor jokingly says in her own satirical remake of the advert. Victor hushes, “It’s 6 in the morning and my husband is still sleeping,” only to scream with rage about what kind of person buys their wife a stationary bike for Christmas. Eventually, she delivers the same line as the Peloton wife about how much the last year has changed her. “I didn’t realize how much this would change me. I want a divorce,” she smiles at the camera and offers her husband divorce papers. This is the far more likely response to that kind of gift.
Problem #3: Countless professionals signed off on this advertisement.
Twitter user Tobias Hirano (@tobihirano) works in advertising, which is what “makes the Peloton ad even funnier when you realize how much goes into this stupid shit. Like rounds of approvals on concept, script, storyboard, edit, color, graphics. Late nights, millions of dollars, entire jobs created for this ad!” he tweeted.
Problem #4: The demographics of Peloton’s upper management.
“The Peloton ad sucks, all Peloton ads suck…,” tweeted Mike Sington (@MikeSington), “but here’s my question: is there a single person of color than owns a Peloton bike? The whole company smacks of white privilege (skinny white privilege). I’ve got an idea- let’s take a peek at Peloton’s senior management team.” It’s no wonder why the company’s stock has fallen by nearly 10% percent today alone. “We all need to treasure the things that bring us together as a nation, as a people. Collectively hating on this Peloton ad is that thing,” tweeted Renee Klahr (@reneeklahr).
Meanwhile, Twitter user Vanessa Contreras (@VanessaL_Castro) is asking the question on all our minds: “Am I the only Latina that looks at the word #peloton and just thinks of the word pelota? 🎾🏀🏐 every. time.” Nope. No, you are not the only Latina, Vanessa. 🙋🏽♀️