When Peloton (PTON 6.12%) began trending on Monday, it was naive to assume that its sudden popularity would be a good thing. It was Cyber Monday, so was a unique promotional push for the high-end fitness platform making it stand out? Nope. Howard Stern had a gushing testimonial for Peloton and his favorite trainer on his popular radio show that morning, just as he has talked up the product over the past few months. Was this another case of the "Stern bump" or perhaps a new celebrity hopping on the bandwagon? No way!
Peloton was trending earlier this week because critics were having a field day ripping apart a 30-second televised spot that it released a few days earlier, one in which a woman receives the stationary bike as a Christmas gift from her partner and chronicles her first year of usage. The ad ends with her watching the montage of her selfie clips with her husband on the couch, waxing on about how transformational the past year has been thanks to Peloton. The headlines are pretty vicious.
- Someone please help the woman from Peloton's awful new ad -- USA Today
- This Peloton Ad Is Giving the World Major Black Mirror Vibes -- Decider
- The Peloton Ad Woman Is Absolutely Not OK -- Vice
- The most disturbing horror film of the season is Peloton's new commercial -- Boing Boing
It all "ads" up
Peloton as a company had come under fire long before it went public at $29 in late September. It's not a product for the masses, since not everyone can afford the $4,295 treadmills and $2,245 stationary bikes that are tethered to monitors, with owners paying $39 a month for access to live-streamed and on-demand workout sessions. There's also an "eat the rich" mentality these days, in which well-off folks are being raked over the coals for enjoying their financial success.
Unlike the Mercedes-Benz ads in which $70,000 cars are waiting in the driveway on Christmas morning topped with enormous red bows, however, folks can't seem to let this Peloton ad go. It has now received more than half a million views on Peloton's YouTube channel, and the company has had to disable comments to stomp out the vitriol on its home turf.
It's true that Peloton has plenty of ads that haven't come under critical attack. Social media is up in arms about this particular commercial because the gift recipient is already skinny and toned -- fit shaming, if you will -- at the start of her Peloton journey. Folks are also mocking the relationship, reading way too much into a 30-second spot as they interpret the recipient's initial hesitation about the workouts as a show of control by her partner.
Some naysayers are also criticizing the nature of a man giving a woman a stationary bike as a holiday present, but is this really that unusual? Peloton has historically generated more revenue during the holiday quarter than in the two previous quarters combined. There is seasonality to this business, and why wouldn't Peloton put out an ad playing up the merits of its connected fitness platform as a Christmas gift?
Peloton is the one getting the last laugh here. The platform's popularity is resonating with its target audience. Revenue more than doubled in its latest quarter, and there are now 562,774 connected fitness subscribers on its rolls. It's hard to call this a fad when the number of monthly workouts for the average user has ballooned from 8.9 to 11.7 sessions over the past year.
This has been a challenging year to invest in IPO stocks, and Peloton was a broken debutante through its first seven weeks of trading. It didn't trade above its $29 IPO price until mid-November, but it's now well above that mark. Knock the new ad all you want, but Peloton investors -- like the gift recipient in the ad -- are the ones benefiting the most from the positive transformational process.