It’s the holiday ad that caught fire for all the wrong reasons: A young, seemingly fit woman is gifted a Peloton stationary bike (presumably by her husband) and proceeds to vlog her fitness journey over the course of a year.
The ad, produced by creative agency Mekanism, went viral almost immediately, sparking criticism about Peloton’s unhealthy depictions of body image and marriage – not to mention the “Peloton Woman’s” concerning expressions (which some have quipped resembles a face of fear). Naturally, Twitter users couldn’t contain themselves, dragging the cringe-worthy campaign with labels like sexist, elitist, and entirely unrealistic.
Soon after the spot aired, actor and liquor brand owner Ryan Reynolds cashed in on the drama – and marketers everywhere scrambled to pick their jaws up off the floor. The ad spot for Ryan Reynold’s liquor brand, Aviation Gin, cast the same actress from the Peloton ad — in a sequel that tells the story of where the Peloton Woman is now. Spoiler: She’s downing Aviation Gin in a bar with two friends, wallowing in the aftermath of Peloton’s ill-conceived commercial. We’ll toast to that.
What makes the gin ad brilliant real-time marketing?
For starters, it’s clear the Aviation Gin ad is a tongue-in-cheek response to the viral Peloton commercial. The ad shows the Peloton Woman (portrayed by actress Monica Ruiz) projecting a deadpan stare as she sits quietly with her martini sans wedding ring – all while her friends tell her she’s “safe here” and “looks great, by the way.” She then downs her entire drink in one gulp.
Did the Peloton Woman heed the advice of Twitter and leave her Peloton husband? Most likely.
In a maneuver that combined timeliness, meme culture, and a simple product message, Aviation managed to capitalize on another brand’s moment of infamy with striking success. The commercial garnered immediate responses after its release, with Reynolds tweeting a link to the video along with the caption, “Exercise bike not included.”
An old tactic with a viral twist. What Aviation Gin did isn’t new. Poking fun at other brands is an old ad trick that’s been used by the likes of Sprint (remember Verizon’s “Can you hear me now” guy?) and Samsung, which has been known to mock Apple product users. But the Aviation Gin ad has raked in praise from advertisers and consumers alike – not because it’s a new concept, but because it came with timely delivery and contextual relevance.
The ad’s success hinged on the brand’s ability to quickly produce a made-for-web commercial in nearly real-time. The video was produced with a tight lead time – only 15 days elapsed between the Peloton ad and Aviation Gin’s commercial.
It’s an undertaking that would be difficult to achieve in traditional TV advertising, which has longer turnaround times and stricter regulations around ads containing alcohol. This, coupled with the commercial’s cheeky release on social media, created the perfect recipe for a viral campaign that launched on the right platform, at just the right time.