Of Popcorn Poppers and Pelotons

Em Carpenter

Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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27 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    This is sort of all the marketing for peloton. It is always rich beautiful people in gorgeous houses working out over the london skyline or in front of their giant windows with mountain views. In general this kind of gizmo is for people who are nervous about working out outside for a variety of reasons or really want the group aspect. If that is what those people need, well this is a way to get it.

    There is a real dislike of these things in the outdoor communities i follow ( distance running and xc skiing). I get the part they mock but they also are missing where a lot of people are coming from regarding exercise.Report

  2. David Ryan says:

    The cold weather has made it hard for me to do the things I like to do to stay fit. Age has made running as much or as hard as I’d like to a way to make sure I can’t run at all. A couple of years ago I got an AppleWatch, mostly for the fitness nudge aspect. At $800 (I’ve upgraded once) it’s been worth every penny.

    I used to think indoor bikes or treadmills were insane. Now, if I had the room and the spare cash, I’d probably be happy to have one.Report

  3. George Turner says:

    Gee, it sounds like a 1950’s vacuum cleaner ad targeted at husbands. ^_^Report

  4. Aaron David says:

    I once bought my first wife a stick blender for Xmas. Notice I said first wife.

    That said if you are not an exercise person than it is really, really hard to get into the groove. I do resistance exercise 3 times a week, mostly to stave off the effects of my disease. When I am feeling up to it, I ride my bikes as that movement is actually pretty easy for longer periods, not to mention I can coast when I need to. I would do none of that if it wasn’t for my condition though. Well, some biking and long walks, mostly as I like to look at things in my environment when I can, but not TV which kills the stationary bike, treadmills and makes me dread my elliptical.

    I am not an “exercise person” but rather I was an active person. And they don’t always translate.Report

  5. Doctor Jay says:

    I couldn’t watch the ad from the above, perhaps it has been pulled. It kind of sounds like, from your description, that what the bike helped her overcome was either loneliness or social anxiety, or maybe both.

    I think a lot of people do better at getting exercise when there’s some social context for it, and yet their anxiety about how their performance will portray them before the group keeps them from joining groups. I take the cold weather outside as more of a metaphor for the emotional barriers to just going to a gym and joining a spinning group. Or whatever.

    That what it seems like the ad is selling, to me. And yeah, her husband had to get it for her, since she didn’t quite have the courage to do it herself. No, I don’t like that message, but there are definitely people who relate to it.

    For me, I’m only gonna get the bike for MrsJay when she asks for it in writing, signed and notarized.Report

    • JS in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      I promise you that Peloton did not put that much thought into the commercial.

      I mean for starters Peloton is a pretty huge rip-off to begin with, if you want an exercise bike or do something spin-like at home.

      That’s a 2200 dollar bike, in a — minimum — million dollar house. The ad is “Buy Peleton and live like the rich do. Thin and rich and happy with their thin richness”.

      It’s selling an overpriced and crap exercise bike on middle-class wishful fantasies. The weirdly sexist tilt to it is someone betting a woman’s fantasy is, apparently, a rich husband who loves her enough to give her a chance to lose those extra pounds before he trades her in for a younger model.Report

      • greginak in reply to JS says:

        Selling middle class people on living like the rich do is old. Selling the rich on this is what rich people are supposed to buy is almost at old.

        Our admin assistant has one of these. I think the classes and social aspect is what really sells these things. A lot of people really need and crave that which shouldn’t be mocked or looked down on even as expensive as these things are.Report

  6. Fish says:

    My first exposure to this whole Peloton thing was Eva Victor’s parody and it had me laughing even though I didn’t have the context. And then I sought out the ad that birthed it and


    I think I sprained a cringing muscle.Report

  7. Saul Degraw says:

    Some people really like practical gifts, other times they can be quit loaded. I am kind of looking to a bag upgrade to something that is both professional and useable everyday. Other times I am weird and love gifts that other people considering boring like clothing (that I like, not socks)

    But this was an absolute disaster combined with some school sexism.Report

    • JS in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I mean I got my wife a Vitamix blender a few years back. She loves to cook. She really wanted it. To the extent that — and I confirmed this after Christmas — if I had missed all the hints, she was gonna buy herself one right after. (And they’re not cheap).

      Although to counteract the potential sexism — she is the chef in the family, I can barely make a sandwich and she’s an outright foodie — she also got my a vacuum that I’d been really wanting, because our old one sucked and I wanted something specific to deal with the massive furbeast that lived with us at the time. It was a very domestic Christmas.Report

    • Amazon gift cards: Just sayin’, in case anyone was wondering…Report

  8. George Turner says:

    From The Spectator: Actually, the husband in the Peloton commercial is a hero

    It’s not the husband’s fault that his wife has crazy eyes that make her look like she’s being held hostage for the duration of the commercial.

    Someone had to stand up for husbands!Report

  9. fillyjonk says:

    It’s aspirational marketing. They’re trying to convince people that if they have that bike, they’ll somehow get the house and the family and the lifestyle that go with it. Some people fall for it. (Heck, I do, on a smaller scale: one of the knitting magazines I read stages the models wearing the sweaters in things I’d like to be doing: picking apples in the fall, or sitting by a fire playing the guitar surrounded by friends, or browsing in an antiquarian bookstore. And I go “OH I WANT THAT SWEATER” but really I want a life where I have friends around me, and have time to do stuff like go apple-picking and learn to play the guitar. It’s probably a less-insidious thing to get sucked in by, but still).

    I dunno. I’m not as incensed by the idea of a guy giving exercise equipment because I can imagine the woman dropping hints all fall, and saying she’d “really like” to quit having to go to the gym to work out, or whatever (though again, the nervousness. Though maybe she was afraid the robotic trainer would judge her in a way that Jorge who leads the Zumba class doesn’t?). And yeah….I would kinda like some higher-end fitness equipment even IF I kind of hate working out. (the extended ad, where she goes “6 am. yay” in a sarcastic voice when she has to get up to work out: I feel that hard, only for me it’s 4:30 am and that hurts WORSE). But I do it because I know it’s good for my health and it helps my screwed-up hip be less screwed-up.

    But I think, like I said, my main irritation with the commercial is the same as my irritation with the Lexus-for-Christmas commercials: the sheer perfection of the people’s lives, and the idea that we should celebrate the birth of Our Lord and Savior with a multiple thousand dollar vanity purchase. But whatever.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to fillyjonk says:

      I must have been around 21 or so when I realized that mens magazines like Playboy were not selling sex, but an aspirational lifestyle. The girls were actually secondary to the sports cars, hip clothes, and obscenely complicated stereo systems.Report

    • Totally agree about the aspirational quality to the commercial – so true.

      I literally just wrote a counterpoint to this article (without having read this one) and that’s what I saw in the ad too. She very likely wanted the bike and been dropping hints about it. In my experience there’s no one with a greater passion for workout equipment than people who are already in super good shape and not having to go to the gym would be a huge selling point for me.

      I asked for exercise equipment once when I was at my very fittest and got it and I was super happy about it. My husband has bought me various workout gadgets I asked for, and he’s usually like “oh god how much room will this take up”. At no point has he ever been “you need to drop weight, here’s an exercise ball”. He is often trying to throw away my exercise equipment but will still buy me more when I ask for it. So it is possible for a husband to buy his wife workout gear that he doesn’t even enjoy having around to make her happy.Report

      • Em Carpenter in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        I totally would ask for something like this if it was in the realm of financial feasibility! And I routinely ask for kitchen gadgets or cookware. This year i asked for socks.
        It’s just- the tone of this ad. The woman’s demeanor. The inexplicable transformation… of what? It is maybe just executed badly.Report

      • JS in reply to Kristin Devine says:

        “She very likely wanted the bike and been dropping hints about it.”

        Except, here’s the thing — we’re just making that up. The commercial doesn’t show it. What the commercial shows is her dreading using it. Her tone is “Oh god, I have to wake up at 5:00 AM to use the stupid thing”.

        I mean I get the implication was supposed to be “Oh, getting into an exercise routine is hard, especially until it’s a habit” but we’re not privy to internal states of mind and what it shows is a woman forcing herself to use an exercise bike she was given as a Christmas gift.

        It all could have been fixed with adding a few seconds of her maybe circling exercise bikes in a magazine or saying she loves spin classes but the gym is hard to get to in the winter or basically any indication she wanted an exercise bike.

        And like…nobody there noticed or thought to add it in, so instead you get a commercial of a woman looking unhappily surprised by an exercise bike for Christmas, then clearly forcing herself to use it, then thanking her husband for getting her something she apparently didn’t want and didn’t want to use, which has this godawful paternal “Daddy knows best” vibe to it.

        It’s like no actual women were involved in the creation of an add aimed at women.Report

  10. InMD says:

    Last Christmas my wife asked for a high end cookware set. I never would have bought her something like this unprompted, for fear that it would go over as well as Em’s mom’s popcorn machine. However I figured she wouldn’t ask for something she didn’t want and indeed she really liked the gift (I hedged with a romantic secondary gift just to be sure it wasn’t some kind of trap).

    Everyone is different and wants different things. I expect fillyjonk is right, and the angle is really a lifestyle appeal. If you have this thing you too will be as happy and satisfied as these (rich, sexy, fun, perfect) people. It’s definitely consumerism run rampant, and I have a low level disgust with the Christmas season for this reason, but I don’t see it as any more nefarious than the billion other advertisements we’re bombarded with on a daily basis.Report

  11. Marchmaine says:

    As a Sales/Marketing professional, I think its an awesome example of mis-translation(s) between sales and marketing and a third party production company.

    What’s the number one selling point of the product:
    Sales: On-line Live Cycling Community

    What’s the number one negative selling point of the product:
    Sales: Uncertainty about a Live on-line cycling community

    Marketing: aha! So if we show that its ok to be nervous about joining the community, but that its something that’s really easy to do and that it will pay dividends by helping to motivate you and give you a long-term sense of accomplishment?

    Sales: Yeah, that would help.

    Third party production company: We got this, hold my beer.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Marchmaine says:

      I could totally see that. Somewhere in there is also a failure to test the ad on selected focus groups.

      A little while ago I saw a news story noting that in three days the add knocked $942 million dollars off Peloton’s market value, so I don’t think anyone can say the ad wasn’t quiet powerful. ^_^

      I think the actress in the ad should at least get a web redemption from Tosh.0, perhaps turning her now infamous role into her own viral branding. But her contract for the commercial probably prohibits it.Report

  12. I was just coming on here to post a counterpoint to the Peloton ad haters; great minds think alike. 🙂

    This is one of those things where I see both sides. I have received some terrible popcorn-popper-esque gifts for sure, and almost took that tack when I was writing about this but this piece is AMAZING and said everything I would have said anyway so I’m so glad I didn’t!

    Great piece!Report

  13. Saul Degraw says:

    There is a part of me that thinks everything about the ad is so perfectly contrived to generate the reaction that I wonder if it was intentional on Peloton’s part. On the other hand, they lost nearly 950 million dollars worth of value so maybe trying to generate controversy was a mistake