Kind of like those TV screens in the back of taxis only more insidious, Uber is set to begin serving ads to your cell phone during trips via a new partnership that makes little to no sense. It's called Trip Branding, and as Consumerist explains, it's from a startup called Yext that seeks to insert strategically targeted ads into yet another moment of your ad-saturated life where they didn't exist before.
For the moment, it doesn't sound like every Uber user will be inundated with pop-up ads during their trips, only those who select a "call an Uber" option in an already targeted email from a specific retail business. Already I'm asking who would ever do this, but I digress.
The example given:
Let’s say you’re reading a marketing email or other material from a brand like Guitar Center. Yext will provide a “Call me an Uber” button at the bottom of the page or message that will let shoppers book a car to take them to the physical store to buy the guitar they were just looking at... While they’re en route to their destination, Yext will serve up ads and other branded materials to the user’s phone...
OK, but what sort of horrible person who reads marketing emails is also so lazy and suggestible that they need a button to call a car for them, as opposed to the app button on their phone?
It seems like just a slippery slope to Uber striking ad deals that effect all users, with ads popping up on our phones that we didn't implicitly ask for by responding to a marketing email. And again WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE THAT DO THESE THINGS? And is Yext some sort of mashup of "yes" and "next"? And do they know how Silicon Valley (the TV show) this all sounds?
Here's the statement from Marc Ferrentino, Yext EVP Strategy & Product:
Uber and Yext share the same mission to help people go places. That’s why we integrated with Uber to create a new, immersive experience where stores, restaurants, and other businesses can bring consumers directly to their doors and increase customer engagement through Trip Branding. We’re closing the loop so that businesses can provide a great experience all the way from search results to checkout which includes actually getting to the location.
The Verge reports that Yext is based in New York, and rightly points out that, "Depending on your point of view, [this concept] will either be super helpful or super annoying." But if you don't find such things super annoying, don't you belong in Idiocracy?
An Uber person, Chris Saad, tells The Verge that the idea is for retailers to "take all the friction out of bringing customers to their doorstep." But, friction? I guess the idea is that certain products that require you to touch and feel them before buying, like shoes and guitars, aren't selling as well on the internet as other things, and so consumers who forget that there's an actual, physical world outside need to be reminded that they can call a car to get to a physical store. And then they need to be instructed what to buy by the store while they travel there.
In short, everything is terrible and this is terrible.
Update: A rep for Uber reached out to clarify that these aren't ads, per se. "When and only when users request rides from the Yext-powered Ride Request button, businesses can display valuable information to enhance their journey or prepare them for their arrival." So it's valuable information from a brand or store, not an ad.