Why do women and even men find the new Peloton holiday ad so disturbing? Because it’s full of some subtle and (some not-so-subtle) triggers that indicate that marketers are still living in the past and can’t seem to catch up.
But rather than join the internet flurry of anger and mockery, I’d rather share some constructive criticism as a former advertising creative who knows the struggles and on behalf of the group targeted.
As a woman, I am disappointed that marketers are still in the dark when it comes to the subtleties of understanding the very people they are meant to be inspiring and speaking to. With our immense buying power, and as half the population, I am at a loss as to why so many miss the mark to give us the messages we need and deserve to hear.
As a creative, I could write an entire article on how everything from an execution standpoint the story, context and concept are lacking and how messaging, casting and direction were a miss. But poor execution from an otherwise premium brand aside, whether they meant to or not, Peloton has joined the ranks of those who are portraying a world very few of us wish to see reflected.
For now, I will focus on tackling this from the female perspective.
Here are some of the subtleties so that you can understand the difference between looking to inspire and looking like an ass.
You don’t know what you can’t see
Look for possible triggers. Just because it doesn’t set off alarm bells for you doesn’t mean it won’t for someone else. In the echo chamber of your brand and your agency, you must look for what might trigger your viewers (while right now that seems to be a lot of things, welcome to the age of woke and aware consumers).
Trigger 1: Women and money
Right now, women are fighting for equal pay, being paid less but expected to do more at work and home. And then they need to ask to pay more for anything marketed to them.
Unless their husband buys it for them, that is. Problem solved, right Peloton? In a time of empowerment and equality, you’ve set us back about 50 years in the first two seconds.
Triggers 2-4: Women and our bodies
Our status in the world is still not our contribution, mind or talent but rather whether we are deemed attractive and end up married with a viable and productive womb. Our bodies are still not our own. We are constantly urged to make these bodies weigh less, eat less and work out more. And not for ourselves, but to achieve the impossible silhouettes we are shown 100 times a day.
Having an already seemingly fit woman act nervous about getting on a stationary bike while filming her every workout five times a week for her husband for a full year while her token child looks on is like a trigger wrapped in a trigger wrapped in a trigger. Coming to you this Christmas to remind you of all the things you should be and are not.
Diverse perspectives are needed for these moments
This is why diverse perspectives of varying gender, race, body type, background and privilege matter in everything from concept to creation to testing. Again, you do not know what you cannot see. We cannot assume our messages will be received in the way they were intended based on our own intentions.
If you want to empower people, include them in the process. Have diverse creative, agency and brand teams. Diversify reviewers and approvers. Test for qualitative takeaways from your intended audience to look for unintended messages. Then, be sure your insights are deep and true to your audience. They want to feel seen and heard, not undervalued and exposed.
Don’t rely on a single insight as a solution or idea (i.e., women love to take selfies so let’s show a woman’s selfie story of some apparent and unseen “transformation.”) If you are going to show or tell a story then show or tell that story.