December 13, 2022

What Uber Taught us About Advertising and the Customer Experience

By: Megan Creighton

In addition to being the world’s leading rideshare service, Uber has seamlessly if not stealthily managed to edge into various logistics-related verticals from food delivery to freight to advertising. We recently hosted a lunch and learn with Uber, to capture insights on B2C advertising trends and hear what they are doing specifically in order to give their customers a first-class experience. 

So, how did they expand their business model to include food pick-up, package delivery, and other services? While the answer may seem simple—data, data, data—it’s actually a little more complex. In fact, Uber’s ability to listen and quickly attune to their customer’s needs is what truly allowed them to innovate and forge new revenue streams. 

During our discussion with Uber’s Zach Rubin and Jon Salm, we gained some useful insights into how Uber approaches their advertising model and why it’s been so successful. Those highlights are below. Beyond that, we’ve carved out some of the most interesting parts of the discussion for your reading pleasure.


Uber provides a first-class customer experience by…

  • Tailoring advertising experiences to specific riders, depending on where they’re going, which type of Uber they’re using (X, Black, etc.), and so on. 
  • Using first-party data to make the campaigns more customized and engaging. 
  • Building on major trends in ad tech over the past several years: developing best-in-class mobile ad tech. 
  • Using the attention that riders are already giving the app to provide entertainment and other forms of engaging content, but doing so in an non-intrusive way.
  • Taking advantage of the “walled garden” of the Uber app to provide advertisers with organic attention and comprehensive data about how that attention can be best directed. 

In-depth discussion points of interest, as relayed by Zach Rubin and Jon Salm:

Zach Rubin: If you think about Uber and the ultra rich data that we have about where people are going in real time, and then historically, where people tend to go—then think about the various contexts that your advertisers might want to reach riders in different situations (at the airport, shopping, etc.) there are so many use cases for Uber and then applicable messaging that you might want to put into the app. 

Jon Salm: The place that Uber advertising sits today is really a culmination of a number of different trends and digital advertising and ad tech over the past decade. If we look at the major trends in the industry and the real kind of earth shattering platforms and moves the first thing is mobile. [For example] Facebook, of course it was a desktop app and you went to just like you went to But Facebook was really quick to recognize that mobile is the future, and as an advertising based-business, if they could build best-in-class mobile ad tech, they would win—and that is proven true over the past decade

[Then the next trend] is ad platforms, where you can buy video advertising. It has risen like crazy over the past 10 years, and then even more recently, the trend is going into retail media.

The next trend that I think that we see is that Uber is really introducing what we’re calling mobility media. So this is a trend where we aren’t just following cookie data, we are actually seeing where they’re going in real life. We’re just not built as an advertising business, we are built as a core mobility business: taking people from point A to B. 

But there are another number of other things that make up the core of our platform today, one of the really neat ones is the tablet experience when you’re actually inside the car. It’s a much more personalized experience because we know who the user is, and can serve them contextually relevant messaging.

Now, we can respectfully use this first party data [to advertise to customers] in ways that aren’t intrusive to our users, and they actually make the experience better. We’ve really seen what the future looks like for an advertising business: combining retail and mobility media for an overall more relevant experience.

Zach Rubin: Uber has a unique position and environment where we are on that purchase journey with the customer. So again, if someone’s on their way to the airport, we know that they’re in the travel mindset. Or if someone is going to a bar or restaurant or a friend’s house, we know they’re going to be social. If they’re going to a stadium, then they are on their way to a concert or a sporting event. Thus, we can uniquely position the messaging for our advertising client toward that particular rider.

Just by the numbers, 124,000,000 monthly active users take 21,000,000 trips per day. You can see how this can add up over the course of a weekend or a week or a month. You can really get massive scale and massive awareness amongst this premium audience. As an advertiser, you’re really reaching that consumer at the right moment with the platform and environment that’s ultra premium.

Also, [from an advertiser’s point of view] when you sign up for Uber for the first time, you have to check a box that says you are a real person and you’re over 18. This means no bots, no spam, there’s no click fraud or anything nefarious going on within the Uber app. All the advertising takes place within our walled garden.

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