And Just Like That… Peloton and the power of the internet

Craig Blankenhorn/HBO image of Sarah Jessica Parker in the Sex and the City Reboot And Just Like That... Carrie Bradshaw, with straight hair and glasses, sits behind an open Apple MacBook, the screen reflected in her lenses. The background is dark.

by Teagan Chevrier, Video Editor, Innovate By Day

If you’ve spent any time on the internet in the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably heard about the “Peloton scandal” which has, in just a few days, gone from questionable product placement in a tv series, turned into a win, and then blindsided by scandal. This highlights the speed of the internet and the importance of having a social media presence that’s run by people who know what they are doing.

There has been a lot of discourse popping up about how quickly trends come and go in our digital climate. Fashion is now so fast that trends can rise and fall in a matter of weeks (looking at you, coconut girl aesthetic). It becomes more and more difficult to remain relevant when trends come and go so quickly. And it's even harder to seem in the know when information changes so quickly.

SPOILERS AHEAD: If you’ve been avoiding And Just Like That… spoilers, turn back now.

Another example of how quickly the internet works can be seen with how Peloton has dealt with its inclusion in And Just Like That… the reboot of Sex and the City. One of the main characters of the original series, played by Chris Noth, is seen doing a 45-minute Peloton workout led by a fictional instructor named Allegra, and subsequently dying of a heart attack. Peloton’s stock started to plummet and they released a PR statement saying they had given permission for And Just Like That… to use their bike but that they had not been informed of the bike’s involvement in Mr. Big’s death. Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a cardiologist in the Peloton’s health and wellness advisory group added that Mr. Big’s heart attack was more likely linked to his “extravagant lifestyle:” in the original HBO series and the SATC movies he was often shown enjoying cigars, cocktails, and steaks.

Enter entertainment and marketing wunderkind and self-effacing Canadian heartthrob Ryan Reynolds. In less than 36 hours after the episode aired, Reynolds’ agency Maximum Effort had pitched and filmed a surprise Peloton spot featuring Chris Noth and Jess King (who played Allegra) sitting together on the couch, cheers-ing to new beginnings. The spot ends with a spot-on Ryan Reynolds voiceover explaining the benefits of cycling and concluding with “he’s alive.” The spot quickly went viral, beating Reynolds’ previous quick turnaround record for his 2019 Aviation Gin ad featuring the “Peloton Wife.”

A great marketing feel-good story.

Here’s where things go south: shortly after the Peloton ad went viral, The Hollywood Reporter published a story about two women accusing Noth of sexual assault (more women have come forward with similar claims since). Peloton and Reynolds quickly pulled down the spot and messaging around it. Peloton released a statement stating that they were unaware of these allegations and that they would archive the ad and posts until they “learn more”.

The entire story is a case study in how responsive we all need to be in this digital age. Product placement in programs should really include context for the use of the product so that the brand isn’t blindsided or is at least ready with a response.

When bad things surface, it’s not enough to release a statement and think that you’ve put it all behind you. Companies and brands need to listen, watch, and learn from what is being said and how it is being managed. Pre-scheduled content is great—but it’s not enough. You need to be consistently monitoring the conversation to ensure you understand how your brand is being perceived. You want to nurture a positive feedback loop where your future plans are informed by how your potential customers are talking about you right now. Reputation, trust, and credibility can be destroyed in a few seconds. Even when you’ve done all the right things.

Be prepared. Watch the conversation. Listen to your audience.

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