There is hardly anyone who hasn’t heard of “And Just Like That”, the long-awaited reboot to the iconic SATC finale. Now that the first two episodes have just premiered, a hot debate has ensued, which, among others, points to an interesting marketing-related issue: the Peloton bike product placement in episode 1. As marketers, we are tempted to dig deeper into the controversial scene with the wildly popular exercise bike from a branding perspective. Curious? Read on (warning, spoilers ahead!):
- Context can be costly. According to The Guardian, Peloton, the fitness equipment company, is no stranger to bad advertisements. In 2019, an ill-conceived “sexist and dystopian” holiday ad prompted comparisons to a hostage video and wiped nearly $1.5bn from the value of the company. Now, after the first episode of the HBO show that has kept millions of fans waiting with bated breath for its release, it is referred to as “the bike that killed Mr. Big”, main character Carrie Bradshaw’s husband. Vulture called it “the worst Peloton ad ever.” Shares of Peloton fell 11.3% Thursday — tumbling to a 19-month low — after Mr. Big was shown dying of a heart attack after a 45-minute workout on one of the company’s exercise bikes. The stock reportedly continued its slide Friday, down more than 5% in midmorning trading.
- Caught by surprise? Know your plotline. According to the above sources, Peloton had approved the show’s use of the bike as well as the appearance of “Allegra,” a fictional instructor played by real-life Peloton cycling instructor Jess King. However, Peloton did not know that “And Just Like That” would show Mr. Big, played by Chris Noth, collapsing and then dying after a Peloton workout. “Due to confidentiality reasons, HBO did not disclose the larger context surrounding the scene to Peloton in advance,” a spokesperson, Denise Kelly, told the outlet. This development of events put the brand in an awkward position of having to issue an official statement. After some of the shocked fans even asked what the company had done to the series’ writer/director, Michael Patrick King, to warrant such a role, the company’s statement pointed to Mr. Big’s unhealthy lifestyle choices as the likely cause of his demise — rather than the fact that his death was precipitated by his use of the company’s exercise bike.
- A little bit of history repeating. The above is not the first-time occurrence of product placement gone wrong. Earlier this year, a similar situation arose, with Ronaldo ditching the Coca-Cola bottles during a Euro 2020 press conference, presumably promoting a healthy lifestyle in a spontaneous act that harmed the official sponsor’s branding and, subsequently, its stocks.
Such events inevitably question whether brands really have the ultimate control over their storytelling when placed in a certain context, on top of the potential negative impact on sales they might experience as a result. Novelty Media, via SmartAd, takes context very seriously offering a clear and 100% predictable environment as an insurance against brand damage. Thus, your brand is fully aware of the context in advance and your message stands out every time, with SmartAd utilizing pre-defined unique instances to deliver it, grabbing the audience’s undivided attention consistently, with no surprises. Keep following our Marketing Bites to find out more about SmartAd and the semantics of our solution.