After Thanksgiving 2019, Peloton introduced an ad for its pricey stationary bike and streaming workout service that immediately pissed off the entire internet. The resulting controversy lost the company nearly a billion dollars.
It also inspired the advertising geniuses behind Ryan Reynolds and his Aviation Gin to respond with a spot people loved as much as they appeared to hate the first ad. See Aviation’s work above then watch the Peloton commercial below.
A pretty, fit young professional mother played by actress Monica Ruiz receives a Peloton and keeps an overly earnest, year-long video diary of her progress. In the end, we see her watching the diary with the partner (boyfriend, husband, whatever) who gave it to her.
It sounds innocuous enough but for a number of reasons the ad went viral as people ripped into it with tweets like these:
The Aviation Gin ad, in case you haven’t watched yet, begins with a closeup on Ruiz staring so fixedly into space it looks like a still photo. Then it becomes clear she’s with a pair of concerned friends and things aren’t right. She knocks back her glass of gin and says it is really smooth. So the friend on the left offers her drink as well.
They mention a new beginning, then in a voiceover at the very end we hear one of the friends say, “You look great, by the way.”
The implied story is pretty obvious: The relationship with Peloton husband didn’t work out, but hey, there’s still gin, and she’s going to be okay. Reynolds’s tweet presenting the ad made the intent pretty clear.
“Exercise bike not included,” Reynolds tweeted.
The ad itself and Ruiz’s willingness to be a good sport about it got the Twitter equivalent of a standing ovation:
One person, however, spotted evidence of an advertiser conspiracy afoot, noting that Goldman Sachs & Co. was a lead underwriter for Peloton’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) and Goldman’s CEO has been spotted wearing an Aviation Gin t-shirt. Hmmm….
CNN quoted a statement from Monica Ruiz, who said in part that she “was happy to accept a job opportunity earlier this year from Peloton and the team was lovely to work with.”
“Although I’m an actress,” Ruiz then admitted, “I am not quite comfortable being in [the] spotlight and I’m terrible on social media. So to say I was shocked and overwhelmed by the attention this week (especially the negative) is an understatement.”
She also expressed gratitude to Aviation as well as Peloton “for the work and giving me the opportunity to do what I love to do.’
For their part, Peloton—likely smarting from the stock loss, too—insisted people completely misunderstood the ad. They gave a statement to CNN:
“We constantly hear from our members how their lives have been meaningfully and positively impacted after purchasing or being gifted a Peloton Bike or Tread, often in ways that surprise them,” a Peloton spokesperson said in a statement to CNN. “Our holiday spot was created to that fitness and wellness journey.”
“While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate,” the spokesperson said.
Maybe it’s just the winter blahs and everyone is stuck inside a little too long and could stand to chill. They’re just commercials, not weighty sociological treatises.
Whatever the case, Ruiz has become a celebrity from the whole thing and after a glance at her admittedly downright wholesome and family-friendly Instagram account, we’re perfectly okay with that.