Uber has spent the past week fighting off accusations that it’s pretty much the douchiest company in the douchiest industry (“tech”) after Buzzfeed’s scoop that an executive said the company was interested in spending lots of money digging into journalists’ private lives. That news doesn’t do much to improve an image scarred by accusations that they ordered and canceled Lyft drives to mess with their competition or fired drivers for arbitrary reasons. Peter Thiel (investor in Lyft) has called Uber “the most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley.”
I’ve laid off hating on Uber, not because I’m scared of being retaliated against (bring it!) as a negative-Nancy journo but because I just started to use it and see it as an affordable, convenient alternative to driving and public transportation in Los Angeles. If they were to mine my personal travel data, they’d probably find nothing more exciting than a record of Ubers waiting outside the same medical marijuana dispensary in Koreatown too many times a week.
I don’t expect a lot from tech startups and corporations; I mostly hope that the people running the ones I use aren’t so douchey. This Friday, Uber crossed the line. Here is a screenshot of what Uber just put in my inbox (and the inboxes of what seems like most people registered with Uber in L.A.)—a marketing opportunity to ride in a car with Diplo (as part of its new collab with Spotify).
Not sure where to start, but here are the most terrible things about this ad campaign:
This subject line, as it showed up in my Gmail inbox:
I am an Uber user and my name is Zak: therefore my DJ name is apparently DJ Zak. Like other tech companies (i.e., Facebook), Uber is interested in “real names” whereas most DJs favor stage names that allow them to explore different musical persona. It’s really cool, Uber, that you’re able to manipulate your email subscriber list so skillfully to personalize with my first name (did you use MailChimp or something??), but I’d prefer that you allow me to name myself in the future. I am not your DJ.
And I don’t really perform. Not in an Uber at least. Neither do DJs—they just appear and look cool and play music. That’s kind of how I want to feel when I enter an Uber, but please don’t ruin the experience for me by calling me “DJ Zak” or any other made-up name for that matter.
This random couple:
Who are these people? Is that what the average Uber driver in Los Angeles looks like? Am I supposed to want to be them? Should I buy aviators? Should I grow back my beard from a couple years ago? Can an Uber driver give me aviators instead of a water bottle?
These horrible suggestions:
Sometimes I wish companies actually used all the data I’m giving them. Hey, Spotfiy, I haven’t listened to indie rock since before you existed. Sorry, boo, but what is bluegrass? Are we in Los Angeles or Nashville? Obviously there are country music fans everywhere, but why don’t you suggest checking out some local Los Angeles artists while you’re pummeling me with bullshit.
I like Diplo alright, but his time in the spotlight as the de facto DJ spokesperson for everything needs to end. It’s 2014. Find other white dudes to turn into corporate icons of underground culture. (Or like, there are non-white, non-dudes who DJ too.)
Ok so finally we find out what this promotion is. Something to do with Diplo and music or something?
Questions persist though:
I thought Diplo was a DJ? Is he a rockstar? Or wait, an artist? Am I an artist? Do I need a rockstar name or is DJ Zak okay? What does the following mean?
Today we’re celebrating music in your Uber with guaranteed music-enabled rides and the chance to ride with Diplo.
Each of these rides will feature you as the DJ, but Diplo may be hard to find. Keep in mind: demand will be high.
So far Uber’s brand has failed many challenges (like relations with media, competitors, governments, and customers), but they’ve managed to stay cool at least as a concept.
That was, until today.