The Peloton fitness bike launched a commercial that was met with high criticism. It was an epic fail that some refer to as “the ad that inspired 1,000 memes”. It featured a mom being gifted a Peloton exercise bike for Christmas and creating a vlog of her fitness journey over the next year. Sounds harmless, but the video went viral for all the wrong reasons.
Memes included suggestions of obsessive workout habits, promoting an unhealthy body image, an image-crazed husband who wants to remind his wife to remain thin, the wife’s facial expressions being translated as “fear face”, and the list goes on. Overall a sexist commercial that promotes unrealistic expectations of body and health. In addition to memes parody commercials popped up all over YouTube and the commercial was a hot topic on many talk shows and media outlets.
While Peloton and the creative agency who produced the ad (Mekanism) went on damage control, stating that the commercial was misinterpreted—actor Ryan Reynolds who owns Aviation Gin decided to capitalize on the viral response by creating a branded sequel.
The Aviation Gin ad features the same mom, sitting at a bar with her besties, and one gin cocktail each. Instead of the fear face, she appears to be numb. Her wedding ring is gone, implying that things didn’t work out with her image-obsessed husband. Her friends let her know that she looks great and that she is safe. The Peloton mom downs her drink in one quick gulp and one of her concerned friends exclaims, “it’s going to be a fun night.”
While the ad did not feature the Peloton bike, it was posted to Ryan Reynold’s Twitter page stating simply “Exercise bike not included #AviationGin” leaving no doubt that this ad was their response.
What Every Marketer Can Learn From This Strategy
This is certainly not the first or the last time a brand will capitalize on another brand’s momentum. What is unique, is that similar ads typically mock or build upon a competitor’s commercial or promotion. However, these products are in entirely different industries and lifestyle categories. There is demographic overlap of course, but they certainly aren’t in direct competition.
The lesson to learn, is that we must always think outside the box, and identify creative ways to engage our audience with trending topics across every demographic.
We are often so focused on our mapped-out campaigns and strategies, that we fail to see mini areas of opportunity that arise. While your brand might not be up for making such a bold statement, drawing inspiration from trending memes to drive local, nationwide, and global engagement should be on all our radars. Memes shouldn’t be the only thing to keep an eye out for, but any type of response to local or wide-spread hashtags, trends, or hot topics.
Timing Is Everything
Unlike traditional commercials which take time to produce, edit, and reserve slotted airtime for—creating a simple and responsive online video is fast and easy to launch. In this case, even longer as liquor commercials have far more restrictions, before they can go live.
Aviation Gin’s video kept the momentum going by releasing their sequel 15 days after Peloton’s meme-ridden video. While their gin is featured and the newly single mom, played by actress Monica Ruiz, mentions that the gin is smooth—it’s all about keeping the storyline going. It was a rapid response to meme culture. The primary goal is to engage those outraged, and bring a bit of light, levity, and even reality to the original commercial.
How To Do The Same
Local SMBs may not be able to achieve the same wide-spread response as Aviation Gin, as we don’t all have the celebrity power of Ryan Reynolds. However, you can garner a strong response from your current audience and engage new leads with the same concept. The next time a meme, hashtag, or hot topic is circulating consider the questions below:
What is an alternate ending?
What happens next?
What is a more realistic scenario?
How would my audience do things differently?
How could this be more memorable or relatable—empathetic, funny, actionable, relevant, etc.?
The overall objective should be to leverage every opportunity you can to connect and engage. If not through a video, you could create a meme. Just ensure that any response you craft doesn’t cross the line of fun to offensive, which sometimes happens with memes. And as Peloton learned the hard way, sometimes happens with ads too.