Sometimes, you can choose when to participate in a fun and lighthearted online trend. Other times, that decision is made for you by crises that force you to upend your best laid plans. So, how do you know when to sit out a trend or jump on it? And, what should you do if you don’t have a choice?

In this post, we’ll be examining Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin’s video ad response to the now infamous Peloton holiday ad. We’ll also take a more sober look at how to handle crises that subsume your existing campaigns.

Capitalizing on trends isn’t something new. For many years, individuals and companies have used other content as jumping-off points to create their own viral moments. You can propel your brand forward if you seize the opportunity of a trending topic. Ryan Reynolds and his team did just that.

The Peloton Woman

First, a quick recap of the Peloton ad. A woman receives a Peloton bike from her husband for Christmas. She tracks her fitness journey by creating videos throughout the year, which she then reviews with her husband the following Christmas.

Many thought the woman looked scared, or that it was rude for the husband to buy her a workout bike since it implied she wasn’t fit enough. Others argued the workout bike was most likely something they would have discussed considering it’s over $2,000, or that it had actually been on her wishlist. Check out the ad below and decide for yourself.

Regardless of your take on the ad, the internet was set ablaze in response to the video. This is where Hollywood actor and owner of Aviation Gin, Ryan Reynolds comes in.

Aviation Gin quickly came up with an excellent video ad to capitalize on the Peloton bike controversy. The concept was very simple.

It featured the same actress from the Peloton ad drinking Aviation Gin with a blank stare. She is accompanied by two friends who are clearly there for support. The ad ends with the woman’s friends saying off-camera, “You look great, by the way!”

All-in-all, it was a not so subtle way to express the internet’s opinion of the original Peloton ad. See the Aviation Gin ad below.

When to Capitalize On A Trending Topic

So why did this work so well, and how can you know if this a tactic you should try? There are a few specific elements that contributed to Aviation Gin’s success with this ad.

Does It Work For Your Brand?

One of the reasons this ad worked so well for Aviation Gin is because it fits their brand. Ryan Reynolds is known for being a jokester. This includes his role as funny anti-hero Deadpool, pranks he pulls with his wife, and other advertising he has done for Aviation Gin.

This set him and his team up perfectly for the tongue-in-cheek ad above. If Aviation Gin was owned by someone else, or had a history of “safe” marketing, the message might not have landed as well.

In other words, don’t force it. Assess the trending topic from different angles. If it fits with your brand, you should be good.

Don’t Overthink It

Coming up with content ideas is difficult enough, let alone one with a ticking clock. While we all want to create that video response that will explode and go viral, it’s important to keep a level head when workshopping ideas.

If you look at the Aviation Gin ad, it is actually a very simple concept. The wife from the Peloton ad needs a drink after escaping from her relationship. It is super relatable, extremely straightforward, and not very complicated.

This type of simplicity has been around for a while. You might remember Oreo’s brilliant “You can still dunk in the dark” post from Superbowl XLVII, or Tide responding to people eating Tide Pods with a simple message of “No” from Rob Gronkowski. Simple messages seem to work better.

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It’s not just the message that’s simple, either. It’s also the production. When faced with a quick turnaround time, you can’t pull off an elaborate video shoot. Filming Gronk saying no, or three women seated at a bar, are both great examples of relatively easy video shoots done well.

Watch For Trending Topics

Keeping tabs on trending topics on the internet should be something on every marketer’s agenda. The Aviation Gin ad would never have happened if someone wasn’t paying attention. Stick to social platforms or news outlets that are most relevant for your company. You don’t have to follow every single trend.

If you find an interesting trend, try to assess whether you think it will last long enough to engage with. Usually, when public opinion is sharply divided, such as the blue and black or white and gold dress, the trend will persist for longer than usual. The controversy sustains conversations as more and more people chime in.

Your brand might not be a fit for most trending topics, but when one does come along, you’ll want to be in the know early on. This leads to our next point – timing.

Timing

When something goes viral or becomes a major trending topic, timing is everything. The internet moves at a million miles an hour. That huge trending topic could be dethroned in a matter of days.

Ryan Reynolds and his team conceived, filmed, edited, and shared the Aviation Gin ad within fifteen days of the Peloton ad’s release. Such quick turnaround is extremely impressive. Ryan Reynolds says it best in a quote from the New York Times about his company’s ad response:

“Ads are generally disposable pieces of content. If you’re going to do something like this, you have to jump on the zeitgeist-y moment as it happens.”

If the other aspects of using this tactic align, respond quickly, and you just might just be able to capitalize on it.

When A Topic Can’t Be Ignored

Some situations hit all of the aspects above, but you still might have to proceed with caution. These could be risky, controversial, or highly sensitive topics.

One very relevant example would be a global crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be hard to know what to communicate publicly as a brand in times like these because the crisis will rightly dominate all news cycles and discussions both online and off. We have a few tips for how to adapt your messaging to these circumstances.

Don’t Avoid It Entirely

While not every company can address situations like this directly, it’s important to at least acknowledge the greater context in any marketing communication. If you continue making videos or content as usual, it might be seen as a bit insensitive.

If you have a specific message you’d like to share with your audience, do it through video. A video response is the best way to comfort those looking at your brand for reassurance.

For instance, some companies create direct messages to address their audience, like this message from JetBlue’s President and COO, Joanna Geraghty.

If that doesn’t align with your brand, or isn’t possible, another option is to gear your content towards situations people will relate to. Door Dash does this extremely well in their newest video, Open for Delivery. 

Adjust Accordingly

Now more than ever, people will be looking for interesting stories, compassion, and even distractions in some cases. Whether sharing serious or lighthearted content, acknowledge the context in which you’re sharing it, and try to tap into the commonality of everyone’s shared experiences with your messaging.

Most companies can continue what they’re doing, but make small changes to better serve their audience. Others may have to scrap campaigns entirely.

For example, Coors Light had planned to run an ad called “Official Beer of ‘Working’ Remotely,” in conjunction with March Madness. They’ve since canceled that campaign because it could have been seen as insensitive. Adjustments like this are exactly what’s needed when the rug gets pulled out from under your feet.

Be Helpful

With positive trends like the Peloton bike ad, you look for opportunities for your brand to gain exposure. In a crisis, you simply look for ways to be helpful.

Many people will be online searching for ways to make their current situation better. Try to position your videos and messages in a way that can provide useful information.

At SproutVideo, we’re in the process of creating new content geared towards helping people create videos at home and by themselves since many people are facing that task for the first time. It’s not much, but it’s our area of expertise, so we’re doing what we can to make people’s lives easier until we can go back to our offices and our studios. Stay tuned for those episodes of our How To Video series launching next week, and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get them in your inbox.

Another easy way to contribute is by spreading awareness about current events or resources. In regards to COVID-19, many companies are reinforcing the idea of social distancing. The Drum showcases examples in their article: Creative Works: what brands are doing for the coronavirus pandemic.

Whatever you do, try to be genuinely helpful.


Embracing trending topics can be huge for your brand if executed correctly. It is equally vital to acknowledge and adapt to critical global circumstances, such as COVID-19.

In the comments below, let us know examples of your company or others you follow who have capitalized on trends or responded particularly well to crises.

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