The Peloton Ad Was a Colossal Mistake — But Not How You Might Think

Phillip Stutts
Dec 13, 2019 · 4 min read

Did you see the crazy controversial, new Peloton ad featuring a husband
who bought his anxiety-ridden wife an exercise bike — and her subsequent selfie-documenting journey using it?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen that there has been massive blowback from the marketplace for the absolute awkwardness of the ad concept — and Peloton has been crushed on social media for it. More importantly, their mistake cost them nearly $1 billion …

Watch the ad, then let’s dive in:

I can’t stress this enough — what Peloton did wrong with their marketing is not what the press is reporting.

I don’t care about anyone that was “offended” by the ad — which is the BIG story in the press. To me, that’s not the controversial part.

The controversial part is the massive negligence by Peloton in failing to do this ONE thing with their advertising campaign — even though they spent over $13 million on this ad.

That’s right, Peloton spent $13 million+ on the ad, and the result was a $942 million market-value loss in just one day.

Not a typo. Those numbers are real people. If you are a Peloton shareholder, it’s appropriate to throw up now …

Before we get to Peloton’s big mistake, let’s dive into what they got right with this marketing campaign:

1. Peloton clearly understood their customer data before launching this ad campaign. If you read me consistently, you know I’m obsessed with utilizing customer data to make marketing decisions. Peloton is clearly targeting exercise-prone moms in their 30s-40s with discretionary income (the bike costs $2,245 with a monthly $39 membership fee). Peloton understood their target customer data before they embarked on this 8-figure ad campaign. In addition, according to CNBC and, “the ad first ran Nov. 4 and has run more than 6,800 times, accounting for an estimated $13.5 million in TV spending. The ad has 15- and 30-second versions running across networks including Fox, NBC and ESPN 2.” — Without knowing Peloton’s internal customer data, these seem exactly the right networks to target for the ad.

2. The message was right! Gasp! Seriously. Peloton is under heavy fire for the messaging of this ad. But I’m telling you right now, they got the messaging right with their target consumer. The message resonates with their customer base. The critics (mostly not in their customer base) or as I call them “cancel culture snots,” were offended that a husband would buy his wife an exercise bike. They find the selfie documentary awkward and demeaning.

I know this is going to sound hypocritical — but these critics do have a point! It’s all of those things … but with one little tweak in Peloton’s marketing strategy, they could have avoided this entire crazy money- and brand-losing incident.

So, if Peloton got the customer data targeting right and the message was right, what made the whole thing bomb so badly?


If you are a business owner or marketer and want to avoid these kind of mistakes, highlight the following sentence:

Authenticity is all that matters with your marketing and creative. The hero in Peloton’s ad was the actor husband for gifting the bike, and the actor wife for reaching her goal.


Note to the Peloton marketing team: We are all aware that this is a fake selfie-docu-commercial highlighting bad gender stereotypes with inauthentic actors.

If Peloton had just documented an actual customer’s journey that had the same message — instead of an actor’s fake journey, not only would this campaign have worked, I guarantee it would have grown their bottom line.

Need an example of what I’m talking about?

Here are two great athletic docu-commercials that use real stories and the hero is the real person — not the company:

  1. LifeProof — Margaux Alvarez living life without limits:

2. Orange Theory — fitness training to stay strong for Audrey (Ironically, this video was used as an example in my last post on how to crush holiday sales.):

See the difference?

This begs the ultimate question, how in the hell did this ad, with hundreds of millions of dollars on the line, get approved in the first place?

It’s marketing malpractice.


P.S.— Want to learn even more fun ideas from this story? Well, Aviation Gin brilliantly “newsjacked” it (and the female actor) for millions in free advertising. If you want to see what they did, click here:

P.P.S. — If you know of a friend or a colleague that would enjoy my bi-weekly updates about incredibly cool, funny, and idiotic marketing ideas, please have them email me ( or sign up here.

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Phillip Stutts

Written by

The Startup
Phillip Stutts

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Founder/CEO: Win Big Media | Founder: Go Big Media | Repped by Vayner Speakers & Keppler Speakers | Author: “Fire Them Now: The 7 Lies Digital Marketers Sell…”

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