Uber’s sponsored ads keep popping up in my Facebook feed. If you’ve never used the transportation startup’s black car or uberX services before, you might think a driver would pull up to your driveway looking like one of these ladies:
These women are extremely attractive. They’re also extremely misleading. And probably being used as click bait.
It’s quite possible for one to connect to an Uber driver and be greeted by a supermodel, but I’ve used the app since 2012 and I can tell you—you’re more likely to encounter a well-dressed, courteous immigrant from Africa or Europe. I’ve had exactly one experience with a female driver, and she was a very kind immigrant from the Middle East. I’ve no complaints about their abilities. Uber is popular because these drivers work really hard.
So why aren’t their faces featured in these ads?
“Those ads are not necessarily for Seattle. There are different demographics across the world,” Brooke Steger, general manager of Uber in Seattle, said over the phone this week. “But that’s interesting feedback.”
She also added that Uber in Seattle “has seen a substantial increase in female drivers.”
Okay, fine. I just have to lament the reality that advertising of any sort always seems to need a pretty face. Isn’t good service enough?
This minor annoyance has me thinking these ride-services are not the scrappy start-ups that took Seattle by storm about a year ago. The Washington Post reports Uber is now valued at $17 billion. Sidecar and Lyft recently announced major backing, too. They are the poster children for the “shared economy” movement (which I wrote about in a previous Opinion Northwest Post), but these disruptive start-up darlings are getting bigger by the day. The idea that they empower average people to use assets they already own to make little extra money on the side still rings true, but have a conversation with many of the drivers on their networks today and some will tell you they’re working for Lyft or Uber full-time.
Not saying that’s a bad thing and I’m not going to stop using Lyft and Uber, but I would encourage their national marketing and recruitment folks to make sure their ads reflect the diversity of the people who are responsible for growing their business on the ground here in Seattle.