A message from the future…well, future riders anyway

Titled, “Message from the next rider,” the ad is slightly more than a minute long and features a number of people who are talking to the viewer directly. The message from these people comes as a “message from the future.” At the beginning of the ad, a question appears on the screen: “what if you could protect someone you have never met before?” As soon as this text disappears, people of different age groups, varying from young adults to elderly, start talking into the camera, in the role of people who would ride in the Uber cab after you. They suggest how you as a rider can take care of everyone who rides after you buy just taking care of yourself.

They give safety tips on how you can make your Uber ride safe for not only yourself but for the person who uses the cab after you have left. Suggestions like “wear a mask”, “sanitize your hands”, “let your driver sanitize your car before getting in” are given and the riders also mention how these safety measures will not only keep you safe but also those who will be taking the same Uber cab later as well. “I know it’s a lot,” says one of the people in the ad, “but it’s gonna keep you safe.” After which another person adds “And when you are safe…” with a third person completing the sentence “I am safe.” This is repeated by a few others, and finally one says “because safety can spread too.” A line then appears on the screen reading, “Prashant is safer for Mehek”, the two names keep getting replaced by other names, suggesting a chain of sorts. The ad ends with a plain white with text on it which reads, “Let’s make every ride #SaferForEachOther” followed by Uber’s logo.

Confidence is what the world needs and confidence is what the ad provides

We all know the world has been struggling with Covid-19 for a while now and the past few months have seen us being fed paranoia and fear in sizeable amounts. While all of us need to take precautions and stay as safe as possible, the constant state of fear has taken a massive toll on people’s mental health. In these circumstances, tech brands can use advertising to encourage caution even while taking some of the stress and tension out of the atmosphere. A sort of palate cleanser if you will. Uber has taken this path. “Message from the next rider” is a very basic ad in terms of production values. It has a few people sitting in front of the camera, suggesting safety tips while riding in an Uber. But they do not try to scare you into following them. The tone of the ad is very humble and polite.

All of us have seen ads and messages about Covid-19, that tell you how doing or not doing XYZ things can leave you open to infection. These mean well but tend to build a certain amount of panic or fear. This ad has taken a different approach. It is not based on fear but on confidence as it talks about how safety can spread. The ad talks about safety and safety alone. The reassuring words of the riders actually give you confidence that even in these scary times, you can trust Uber if you have to take a cab. And confidence (mixed with caution) is what we think the world needs at the moment.

Getting the message across and the service too

But this does not mean “Message from the next rider” is a CSR campaign. It is very much an ad and in our books a very smart and clever one. In these uncertain times, the ad aims to tackle the biggest issue Uber is facing at the moment by talking about how it is safe to ride with Uber. It also shows that the brand is concerned about its riders (at least on paper). If you look at the ad, you will not find anything that you have not heard a thousand times already but this ad uses that information very differently to build the confidence of its viewers in the brand instead of stressing them out.

We also like how inclusive the ad is. It has taken people who represent different parts and segments of India, in terms of ethnicity and culture, without being annoyingly obvious about being inclusive (as some brands are). This is very subtle. The people in the ad mainly seem to come from the middle and upper-middle-class segment of society, which makes sense as most of Uber’s user base belongs to these two segments. This is not an ad for the masses, which is perhaps the reason why it is in English. “Message from the next rider” sits right between ads that bombard plain information bombardment and ads that turn our hearts into mush. It is a perfect balance of information and empathy. The message does not get lost in the emotion and neither does it feel as if it is just about Uber. It makes you feel like the ad is about you, your safety, and then Uber, cleverly giving Uber a pedestal to stand on. It reminds us that Covid-19 may be infectious but safety can be too while highlighting its own product in the process. As we had mentioned in our piece on advertising in the times of COVID. “What we think is needed is advertising and messaging which will not only connect users to a brand but will also make them realize that the brand is there for them even in these tough times” Uber has done just that. None of us might know the person who would take our Uber after us, but we sure loved this message from the next rider.