Best of 2021: Peloton responds to 'Sex and the City' plot twist with ad from Maximum Effort

New spot from Ryan Reynolds' agency stars actor Chris Noth and instructor Jess King

Published On
Dec 13, 2021

Editor's Pick

Through New Year's, we will be counting down our picks for 2021's 30 best ads and creative marketing ideas.

At No. 4: In mid-December, Peloton encountered a bit of a snag when a key character from the "Sex and the City" reboot passed away after a strenuous workout on one of the brand's bikes. But in a quick-fire move, it partnered with Ryan Reynolds' agency Maximum Effort to come back with an "alternate ending" to that plot twist. At the time, it seemed a brilliant move to counter a tricky PR situation, leading to a spot on this list. The power of the idea, however, fizzled fast, when days later, sexual assault allegations against the spot's protagonist, Chris Noth, emerged, leading Peloton to pull the ad. Ultimately, it proved a learning opportunity for brands considering product placement ideas. 

Late last week, brand experts advised that Peloton “own the conversation” after the fitness brand appeared to be caught by surprise when a key character on Sex and the City’s HBO Max reboot “And Just Like That...” died following a strenuous workout on a Peloton bike. And now Peloton is doing just that by injecting its own creative into the buzz surrounding the unexpected death of—spoiler alert—Mr. Big.

On Sunday afternoon, Peloton released a 38-second commercial that shows Chris Noth, who plays Mr. Big, enjoying a romantic evening beside the fire with Jess King, the Peloton instructor who was leading the workout, as the character Allegra, that led to his demise on the show.

See all of Ad Age's 2021 Marketers of the Year here.

“And just like that… he’s alive,” the New York-based brand tweeted with the spot. In the video, Noth says “To new beginnings” to King, as they cheekily discuss taking “another ride.”

At the end, a voiceover by Ryan Reynolds, whose agency Maximum Effort created the spot, says “And just like that, the world was reminded that regular cycling stimulates and improves your heart, lungs and circulation, reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases. Cycling strengthens your heart muscles, lowers resting pulse and reduces blood fat levels. He’s alive.”

The spot came together quickly, a Peloton spokeswoman said. Maximum Effort and Peloton filmed the spot in New York City over the weekend. The project took less than 48 hours to put together.

See Ad Age’s 2021 Year in Review here.

"In the spot, we reinforce the narrative that Peloton and cardiovascular exercise are good for you, and help millions of real people lead long, happy and healthy lives," she said, noting that the creative was designed as a social and digital spot. Peloton is a participant in a "Creative-as-a-Subscription" service offered by MNTN, Maximum Effort's new parent company, the spokeswoman said, noting that the service helped with the speed of production.

Peloton’s TV turn was reminiscent of another product placement that led to the death of a beloved character—when a Crockpot slow cooker in 2018 caused the fire that killed Jack Pearson on “This Is Us.” Brand experts said the best way for Peloton to weather any negative PR was to bring advice and information to viewers pertaining to the product.

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In a statement late last week from cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a member of Peloton's Health & Wellness Advisory Council, the brand blamed the character’s “extravagant lifestyle” and said riding a Peloton could actually help “delay" his cardiac problems.

In a twist, the new Noth spot is from the agency that poked fun at Peloton two years ago following the brand’s ill-received “Peloton wife” spot. That spot, in which an already thin woman was gifted a Peloton from her husband, was panned as a “male fantasy” designed for men wanting more slender spouses.

Soon after, Maximum Effort created an ad for Reynolds’ Aviation Gin that starred the same actress, Monica Ruiz, from the Peloton spot. In a subtle reference to her turn on the fitness bike, she was shown at a bar with friends, toasting “new beginnings,” much like Noth is in the new spot.

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Reynolds also shared the ad on social media on Sunday, referring to the speed of the effort as "#Fastvertising" on LinkedIn.