It was a look that spawned a thousand Twitter jokes. To some, the young mother — who spends the majority of the 30-second ad toiling away on the bike after her husband gives it to her for Christmas — looked like a hostage.
To others, she bore a striking resemblance to the possessed character who delivers the titular line in the horror movie “Get Out.”
An Internet that rarely agrees on anything was seemingly united on this one thing: The Peloton ad was downright dystopian.
And accidentally hilarious.
“The Peloton Ad Woman Is Absolutely Not OK,” said a Vice headline, accompanied by a Photoshopped image showing cartoon tears flowing from the woman’s eyes.
“Someone please help the woman from Peloton’s awful new ad,” USA Today implored.
“My husband got me a Peloton for Christmas, nothing weird about that!” comedian Eva Victor exclaimed in a widely shared parody video. “Thank you, you get me!”
Peloton, a New York-based start-up now worth billions, makes luxury indoor bicycles that start at $2,245 (a price point CEO John Foley called “crazy affordable”) and streams subscription-based workout classes.
The company has a cultlike following to rival SoulCycle’s. But it’s been panned in the past for its ads — most notably due to a penchant for showing its bikes in opulent settings, as highlighted last year in a lengthy Twitter thread.
The Christmas commercial, however, reached a new level of Internet infamy, and investors reacted negatively: The company’s stock tumbled Tuesday by 9 percent. (“Peloton Stock Is Pummeled on Backlash From ‘Gift That Gives’ Ad,” Bloomberg blared.)
On Wednesday, days into the outrage cycle, the company waded into the controversy. In a statement emailed to CNBC, a Peloton spokesperson expressed disappointment “in how some have misinterpreted this commercial.”
However, the statement continued, "we are encouraged by — and grateful for — the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.”
Attached to the email were PDF documents of positive emails the company received about the spot, along with a Facebook post supporting it.
The much-maligned commercial made its debut last month, just in time for the holiday season. On YouTube, where the comments are turned off, the ad carried an innocuous title: “The Gift That Gives Back.” The caption urged viewers to “give your loved ones the opportunity to discover their strength, whenever they want it, all year long.”
But to many watching, the star of the commercial didn’t seem to want it at all. After the Peloton is foisted upon her, the woman, identified only as “Grace from Boston,” films herself reporting to it day after day. “Five days in a row,” the already thin woman tells the camera. “You surprised? I am.” She pries her eyes open in bed, groaning, “Six a.m. Yay.”
At the end, in a twist some found to be a little too “Black Mirror,” she plays the montage of grueling workouts for her husband the next Christmas, turning to him to watch his reaction. The Peloton looms in the background.
It was spousal abuse, viewers cried. It was sexism, a descent into wellness hell, society’s “nightmare before Christmas.” Many ascribed misery to “Grace,” imagining she had been forced into spinning her days away on her husband’s behalf like some kind of millennial Rumpelstiltskin story.
“She would rather be anywhere else in the world than here,” mused Vice, “in her glacial home with the husband she loathes, putting on this sick pantomime of wellness and marital bliss; she’d even rather be back on the dreaded Peloton.”
Despite all the ridicule, Peloton just might have the last laugh. The commercial has brought plenty of attention. And then there’s the company’s reaction to its previous brush with online mockery, the Twitter thread of bikes in fancy locations.
“That thread demonstrated that Peloton has officially become part of the cultural conversation,” a company spokesperson told CNBC earlier this year.