“I didn’t realize how much this would change me,” Peloton Woman says in the ad.
Fallout followed in the form of Internet memes, parody videos and a drop in the company’s stock by 9 percent earlier this week.
The Peloton actress has taken her panned story line — and luxury bike trauma — to a new ad for a different company, Ryan Reynolds’s Aviation Gin.
The spot opens with the so-called Peloton Woman staring expressionless into the camera. The shot pans out to reveal her surroundings: a modern yet cozy-looking bar with a fabulous rendition of Jingle Bells playing in the background, a Christmas tree, two girlfriends and three large gin martinis.
They sit in uncomfortable silence until Peloton Woman finally speaks.
“This gin is really smooth,” she says.
“We can get you another one, if you like,” one friend says.
“You’re safe here,” adds the other.
“To new beginnings!” Peloton Woman declares in a toast, before downing her martini in a single, slow gulp, then accepting her friend’s drink, too.
“You look great, by the way,” her friend says, as the ad cuts to a bottle of Aviation Gin.
The gin ad does not mention Peloton or identify Peloton Woman, but the subtle joke rapidly spread on Twitter. As of midday Saturday, it had been viewed 5 million times.
Peloton, a New York-based start-up worth billions, streams subscription-based workout classes on its luxury bikes and has been panned in the past for marketing its products (which chief executive John Foley once called “crazy affordable”) in unrealistically picturesque homes.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Aviation Gin ad.
Hollywood news site Deadline published a statement from the actress, Monica Ruiz, which came to them through her agency:
“I 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, I am not quite comfortable being in 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.
“When Ryan and his production team called about Aviation Gin, they helped me find some humor in the situation. I am grateful to both Peloton and now Aviation Gin for the work and giving me the opportunity to do what I love to do.”
“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 the statement to CNN. “Our holiday spot was created to that fitness and wellness journey.”
The commercial made its debut in late November, 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.”
The ad opens with the woman waking up on a snowy day, her daughter in hand, to find the Peloton gift from her husband. She documents herself riding the bike throughout the next year in selfie videos that show her waking up at 6 a.m. to exercise. The ad concludes with Peloton Woman showing her husband a montage of those videos and thanking him for the bike.
Some described the spot as a bit dystopian and claimed it was sexist (because the Peloton was a gift from the woman’s husband) and abusive (because the woman seemed pained throughout). Others, including the actor who played Peloton Husband, said the criticism was overblown.
“People turned down a pretty dark path and it turned into a nasty thing,” actor Sean Hunter said in an interview with “Good Morning America.” “Once something goes viral, and it turns viral, people jump on that negative bandwagon and start to create any dialogue they want.”
Hunter continued: “My image is being associated with sexism, with the patriarchy, with abuse, with these words that I am seeing people write about me. That’s not who I am."
The actor added that he was also concerned for Ruiz.
Hunter, in the meantime, has changed his Instagram username to pelotonhusband.