The Peloton Wife and Verdin raise their glasses to Aviation Gin ad

by: Amy Blasco

Are you confused by that headline? Does it make you raise your eyebrows like the Peloton Wife?

If you answered “yes” to those questions, let’s get you up to speed: Back in late November, Peloton, a company that makes high-end exercise equipment, launched a holiday ad in which a husband gives his wife a stationary exercise bike for Christmas. (If you haven’t seen the commercial, it’s worth the 30-second watch—because it’s a perfect example of what not to do when marketing your brand.)

The ad shows an already-fit woman waking up on Christmas morning to find a $2,250 Peloton bike by the tree. It then shows, through a collection of phone videos, the woman using her bike and subscription-based video classes to get (even more?) fit over the course of a year. At the end of the ad, the wife and her husband can be seen watching the video diary together at Christmastime the following year, with her seemingly looking to him for approval.

While that description might sound harmless, “The Peloton Wife ad” generated a tidal wave of biting backlash on social media, with people calling it sexist, classist, tone deaf and other, more colorful terms. As a result, Peloton shares lost nearly $1 billion in market value and comedians, including SNL, quickly parodied the ad, cementing its cringe- and meme-worthy status.

In a nutshell, people are arguing that the already thin, physically fit (and White and rich) Peloton Wife doesn’t need a $2,500 exercise bike. They’re also saying the obviously staged video diary—accompanied by the actress’s fearful facial expressions—make it seem like the husband is forcing his wife to use the bike, record her work outs and then show them to him.

Enter actor Ryan Reynolds, of Deadpool fame, and his company, Aviation Gin, which used Peloton’s marketing disaster to promote their brand in a smarter, classier and funnier way. Approximately 36 hours after Pelo-gate occurred, Aviation Gin released its own holiday ad. In this one, the actress who played the Peloton Wife (Monica Ruiz) can be seen sipping a martini with girlfriends at a bar.

“This gin is really smooth,” a dazed Ruiz tells her friends.

“We can get you another one,” one friend replies.

“You’re safe here,” the other friend says.

Together they toast, “To new beginnings,” and then the wedding-ringless Peloton Ex-Wife pounds her martini in one go.

The ad has received ample praise from audiences and marketing professionals alike, who are calling it hilarious, cutting-edge, and woke—essentially, the antithesis of the Peloton ad.

“What we just witnessed is a masterclass in marketing storytelling and a new genre of fast advertising. It's the latest in a series of bold moves that have pushed the industry in new directions, especially on digital, over the years,” explains one marketing specialist in an article for LinkedIn Pulse, Aviation Gin Saves Peloton Wife and Maybe the Traditional Advertising Industry Too.

Here’s Verdin’s take on the Peloton Wife’s journey from sad cycler to happy drinker.

Keeping it real is really important

The differences between Peloton’s ad and Aviation Gin’s ad all come down to one thing: authenticity.

In a statement to the press, Peloton representatives said the company’s holiday spot “was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey.” While that might have been the brand’s intention, many people viewed the ad as elitist, fake and insincere.

There’s no doubt that Peloton bikes are expensive, even if people choose to pay them off in increments. But, according to brand agency Monigle, Peloton has thrived in the past by highlighting its “role in removing barriers and making people feel empowered individually and part of a passionate, connected community, all at once.”

The Peloton Wife ad, however, failed to show that passionate, connected community. A better tactic would have been to show videos of real-life Peloton users documenting their fitness journeys.

By comparison, the Aviation Gin ad used savvy humor and a relatable, “bad day” girls’ night out with friends to promote its brand. The scene in the bar of girlfriends sipping “really smooth” gin felt comforting and incredibly human.

At its heart, all successful marketing has heart. People react to, and engage with, emotionally compelling stories that capture the human experience because we can relate to them. A great example of this empowering humanness can be found in a marketing campaign for another exercise equipment company, Bowflex. Check out their “If I Can, You Can” TV commercial:

After watching that, which piece of equipment would you like for Christmas?

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