Backlash from Peloton’s new ad is missing the point

Peloton rolled out a new ad just in time for the holidays…

In case you missed it, Peloton, known for their indoor bikes and membership feature, rolled out a new ad in time for holiday orders. In true social media fashion, there was a ton of backlash but I can’t help but think some people really missed the point.

This 30 second ad that can be viewed on YouTube features a thin (will be important later) female receiving a Peloton bike for Christmas from her significant other. The seemingly harmless ad continues by following her as she documents her year of riding, ending with a vlog compilation and sweet sentiment of “I didn’t realize how much this would change me.”

To give Peloton the benefit of the doubt, I think (and hope) the ad, titled ‘The Gift That Gives Back”, was intended to show the inner transformation that can occur from a consistent exercise routine. There are a few shots where her daughter is smiling back at her probably scripted so we’d have a warm and fuzzy “aww, they are watching us” moment. She says how she’s surprised that she is being consistent and looks proud to share the vlog compilation with her partner.

The missed point?

Twitter and other social media platforms are littered with backlash that pokes fun at this thin and privileged female for her nonexistent physical transformation after her 365 day commitment.

“Pelaton’s viral ad captures a ‘116 lb woman’s YEARLONG fitness journey to becoming a 112 lb woman.’ –Market Watch

“The Peloton ad that shows the skinny athletic model transforming to a skinnier athletic model makes me wanna put my head threw a plate glass window.” @dlombardi77

“Nothing says “maybe you should lose a few pounds” like giving your already rail thin life partner a Peloton.” @sirajhashmi

Some would argue that all publicity is good publicity, but Peloton may disagree seeing as they turned off comments on the YouTube video. Some even called it the worst advertisement of 2019 and said it solidified their decision to not buy a Peloton.

While I agree the ad could have been better, I think we could use this #trending moment to learn a thing or two about weight stigma in our society.

As I see it, Peloton’s ad isn’t the issue

Rather, the issue is that the majority of Americans look at exercise as a way to manipulate weight and body size and nothing else.

You know how passionately I talk about the benefits of exercise outside of body changes. I detailed it again recently in my blog about intuitive exercise. Unfortunately, when discussing non-scale benefits of exercise, most people smile and nod and still think about the weight they could (or should) lose or the cellulite they could banish.

Weight stigma is alive and well in our society. Commentors assume that because she is thin, she is physically and mentally healthy. They also assume that she wanted to pursue a fitness journey to lose weight (or that’s what her husband wanted). And don’t get me started that they estimated her weight.

It’s a losing battle until the stigma ends

The way I see it, the story line of this ad would have received backlash regardless of who they cast to play the role.

Picture this. Same story line only the marketing powers that be cast a larger body female to chronicle her year long fitness journey. At the end, the message is the same, she had no idea how much it would change her yet its noticeable that she didn’t lose any weight. Without a doubt, our fat phobic society would have commented on how the fitness journey failed her. Some of the comments “you too can look the same 365 days later for $2,200 and $35/month” could have still applied.

Or how about same story line and messaging that she “didn’t know how much it would change” her yet it’s visibly clear that she also lost weight? While it’s unfortunate that this plot would have been more socially acceptable, it’s possible there still could have been backlash from another *stereotypical larger body wanting to be a smaller body* sales tactic. The weight stigma still exists in that story line too, as it assumes everyone in a larger body must want to be in a smaller body.

While I see what Peloton was trying to do here, I don’t think our society is ready to receive messaging like this until we truly uncouple exercise = weight and smaller body = healthier in our minds.

Tell me… What do you think about the ad?

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