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Maybe it’s time to consider that Peloton is trolling us all with its advertising

Either that or it’s the first brand to use lack of self-awareness as a marketing strategy.

Maybe it’s time to consider that Peloton is trolling us all with its advertising

When it comes to buying gifts for a significant other, there’s a general rule of thumb: Never get them something that a) suggests they do more work. This includes your midcentury husband clichés like a vacuum, blender, or any other household chore-related tools. And b) anything that suggests any kind of self-improvement or imposing your interests on them. This includes diet books, a LeBron jersey, knitting classes, and most definitely, a freaking exercise bike.

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Enter a recent Peloton holiday ad.

Posted on November 12, the spot’s called “A Gift Like No Other,” and man, were they right. Just take a glance at the comments. Then search “Peloton commercial” to continue the gift that keeps on giving. What we have here is a young mom who is already in great shape getting an exercise bike from her husband for Christmas. Given the nature of the surprise, it’s clear that she didn’t ask for it. The crisis of self-confidence that ensues manifests in her becoming an obsessive user, filming herself daily to prove to her husband that she’s become what he was hoping she would (though it’s unclear if the goal is to be a better person or merely five pounds lighter).

Also, apparently she’s a TikTok mom now.

The general consensus reaction to the ad has been a hearty WTF, inspiring Monday’s (awesome) spoof.

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You know Brand Twitter had to chime in.

This response is arguably nothing new for Peloton, is it? Last year, it was encouraging us to curate our lives into something resembling, as my colleague Joe Berkowitz put it, a Manhattan-set romantic comedy sponsored by Goop. Of course the same guy who’d put his Peloton in the most striking area of his $3 million ultra-modern house would buy his wife her own Peloton for Christmas. This is Todd and Margo from Christmas Vacation if they were brand influencers.

Not long after “A Gift Like No Other,” the company launched a new TV ad called “Our Kind of Joy,” in which a neighborhood of obvious psychopaths wake up before dawn on Christmas morning to exercise. Just look at that kid’s face at the 27-second mark. That’s not joy. It’s childhood confusion, mixed with sheer disgust.

The only logical explanation here is that Peloton is trolling us all. There is just no way that a major brand, one valued around $4 billion and more than 500,000 users, could possibly think that these spots aren’t completely batsh*t, right? Maybe all the entertainment we get from the horrified and hilarious reactions is all part of the Peloton brand content master plan.

Okay, okay, that’s likely a reach. A reach like the assumption that someone would put their exercise bike a few feet away from the Christmas tree.

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When that original thread making fun of Peloton’s ads emerged in January, a company spokesperson told CNBC that it “demonstrated that Peloton has officially become part of the cultural conversation.”

Indeed.

Company cofounder Tom Cortese has cited Apple as a brand inspiration when it comes to user experience. That has apparently extended to Peloton’s brand marketing. In this case, the inspiration appears to be Apple’s famous “1984” Super Bowl ad. Except here we’re not the runner with the hammer. In Peloton’s world, we’re the clone-like followers, zoned out and in complete compliance to our video master. Just swap the bald dudes in gray jumpsuits with wealthy Alpha Folk in an Architectural Digest-worthy setting.

Welcome to a complete lack of self-awareness as marketing strategy. Ride on, Peloton.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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