If you haven’t seen the 2019 Peloton Bike Christmas Commercial, there’s a good chance you’ve heard about it. There’s no way to sugar coat it, it’s just terrible. A rich, thin wife is given an exercise bicycle from her husband. She then spends the next 20 seconds riding daily out of fear, recording it all from her phone.
There are so many things to hate about this commercial and the internet found them all. And their voice is being heard. To the point where Peloton stock has dropped 10% as of late. This is around Christmas, this just shouldn’t be happening organically.
First let’s talk about why people hate this commercial. Many are offended that the husband gave is 115 lb wife an exercise bike for Xmas. Other are bothered by the fact that a 115 lb woman worked so hard to get down to 112 lbs. Large groups have expressed the look of fear as she pedals away, only to see a scowl on her husband’s face as he first watched the video. Even angry words about how they’re represented as beautiful and wealthy and not a relatable family. But when you see the price of the bike, you’ll understand that representation.
But who is to blame here? I’ve worked on several video productions from television shows to commercials. I’ve written, directed, edited and even acted. Hell, I’ve even been the client asking an agency to create magic. One thing you learn is it’s incredibly easy to throw blame at another.
It’s easy to immediately blame the actress. The acting is legitimately bad. She genuinely looks like a prisoner or hostage in some of the clips. She comes off as unlikable and a bit unstable.
So with that, you can easily blame the director. They control the emotional climate of the actors. They have the power to have them turn it up or down. Even fire and replace an actor if they aren’t living up to their vision for the commercial. No matter how badly it’s written.
Oh cool then, you can blame the writer(s)! They are the ones who handed a script to the client and their creative director that eventually got green-lit. No matter how bad an idea is, you can still try to work some magic on it.
So then, the idea guy? The Creative Director? The buck stops here person? When you’re the overall say-so on a creative project, you’re the one who gets to win the awards. So then shouldn’t you be the one who wins the backlash? No matter how bad the client is?
Then, it’s the client! It could be. An agency is going to listen to their needs and create a handful of campaigns for their approval. They picked that one and approved a final version of it.
But then again, they aren’t creatives and the creatives can’t always sway the client.
So who’s to blame?
The consumer. It’s that simple. I mean, of course we need to blame everyone associated with that commercial. It’s just terrible. So terrible. But so much blame needs to be pointed back at the people the video was made for. Commercials aren’t new to agencies. We’ve been making them for decades. With each one, we learn. We learn what works, what doesn’t work. We learn how to talk to a viewer and how to persuade them. We learn who our audience is and we learn now to speak directly to them. That video is 100% meant for their audience. The upper-class, pretentious, anxiety-filled socialites who watch the clock turn daily on their lives and use every second to seek validation. They spoke to their audience and when the Xmas Sun sets, they will be owners of that bike.
So yes, it’s a really bad commercial, and in 2 weeks time we all will have moved on. She might never work as an actress again. That commercial might never be on anyone’s reel and a few memes will pop up about all of this. But the exercise bikes will still sell.