BOSTON (CNN/CBS) — Peloton, the indoor bike start-up, released a new holiday ad that has the internet buzzing. Critics on social media are accusing the company of peddling negative body image and are wondering if “Grace from Boston” is in an unhealthy relationship.
The 30-second spot, which you can watch right here, shows a husband surprising his wife with a Peloton. She begins to document her fitness journey in a vlog, riding after work and begrudgingly waking up at 6 a.m. to get on the bike.
Through the window, the audience can see that winter has turned into spring, then summer as she rides. In the fall, a Peloton instructor on the screen in front of her acknowledges her efforts — “Let’s go, Grace from Boston!”
Grace, still home in Boston, is thrilled. But who is the vlog for? The big reveal is that Grace is showing her yearlong vlog to her husband as a thank you for the gift.
“A year ago, I didn’t realize how much this would change me,” she says, now a full believer in Peloton.
Why people are angry
So what, then, is the most offensive part of this ad?
Critics suggested it smacked of sexism. In a biting clip [Warning: explicit language], comedian Eva Victor skewered the fact that a husband bought his wife an exercise bike seemingly unprompted — what message does that send to the wife, then? Is he trying to nudge her toward weight loss?
Other tweets struck a similar tone.
It's clear this woman doesn't need a Peloton. She needs a good therapist and a divorce lawyer. https://t.co/II7F0HicAE
— Hemal Jhaveri (@hemjhaveri) December 2, 2019
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) December 3, 2019
If my husband bought me a Peloton for Christmas, I’d make him a video too. Of me selling it on Craigslist.
— Carly (@nuclearcarly) December 3, 2019
The ad is of course fictional, and it’s possible the fictional Grace from Boston loved fitness and dreamed of owning a Peloton bike. But in internet lore, she’ll find new life as a meme.
The company hasn’t issued any responses on social media. Peloton had no comment when reached by CNN.
Peloton and privilege
Past Peloton ads haven’t inspired as much buzz as this one has, but critics have knocked the privileged consumers they portray and market to.
In a thread, a Twitter user who uses the handle Clue Heywood poked fun at all the Peloton ads that take place in million-dollar homes with “panoramic living rooms” and “glass-enclosed zen gardens,” starring thin women and men who don’t sweat as much as they shimmer.
Fast Company speculated that Peloton is “trolling” us all with this 30-second spot, that the brand has weaponized its “lack of awareness” into a marketing tool. It’s lit up online, and PTON stock rose almost 5% on Monday, though whether it’s convincing any of its critics to buy the bikes remains to be seen.
The lack of awareness hasn’t stopped it in the past: The same week the company went public, CEO John Foley told CNN Business that the bike, which starts at $2,245, is “crazy affordable.” That’s about two-thirds of the average rent for a Manhattan apartment, which might be a hard sell for consumers outside the middle class.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN’s Scottie Andrew contributed to this report.)