This has gone beyond meta.
I've been following the Peloton ad controversy for the past week, curious to see how the most brilliant ad campaign in the history of the web plays out. (By the way, it is also the worst ad campaign in the history of the web at literally the same time.)
If the goal is to make Peloton a household name, it's working.
If the goal is to have that name uttered in positive terms, it's not working.
As some background: The ad features a wife who takes up the challenge presented by her husband (since he bought her the bike) to exercise more. She has a pained expression that anyone who has ever exercised will recognize immediately.
After the ad made the rounds on television, barely anyone noticed.
Then, it dropped on YouTube and on Twitter. Here it is:
Major cultural moment.
The Twitter response was loud and caustic, making some bold claims about interpersonal relationships, fad diets, extreme workouts, and motivational psychology. I happen to think the wife in the ad, played by actress Monica Ruiz, does look a little nervous.
Recently, Ruiz appeared on the Today show along with Ryan Reynolds, who signed her on to play a part in his Aviation Gin commercial.
Here's where it goes beyond meta. The "wife" in the ad is depicted as someone who needs moral support and guzzles down a glass of gin.
If you have ever seen the show Black Mirror, this could be an episode. Actually, I'd argue it is even more revealing about culture than any Black Mirror episode.
What's so interesting from a branding and advertising standpoint is that the actress who played a part in the controversial commercial has now become an iconic figure. I think she's as confused about all of this fame we everyone else. It's also interesting because Peloton no longer has anything to do with this. And, I'm curious how social media users will respond because the Today show is a network television show. The post on the Today show feed is not getting any traction so far, as social media marketing experts would say.
So what does Ruizthink? She told the Today show that she didn't hear from hardly anyone when the commercial first aired on television, just friends and family. Then the comments started, which can only happen online. Ruiz said she started reading the comments and realized they were negative and stopped. She thought it would all blow over.
Er, not anytime soon.
Ruiz said she thinks it was how she looked worried. "It was my face, it all exploded from there," she joked. As far as creating a moment, it has worked well for Ruiz.
"I hope that people can just see me as an actress. I hope people can remember I am not actually the Peloton lady," she said.
My view is that this will eventually stall out, and even that Peloton will rebound--mostly because the product will be judged on its value and not on one ad.
At the same time, those who do marketing are going to think seriously about ad perception now and even how the real actors portrayed in the commercials might also go meta.
How that plays out is still unknown.