Ad with errors: An expensive mistake for Uber India?

According to industry estimates, the brand is believed to have spent between Rs 3-5 crore overall on the print ad campaign

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Published: Dec 9, 2019 8:59 AM  | 6 min read
Uber Newspaper Ad Mistake

A print spot by ride-hailing company-Uber India is being trolled on Twitter for its erroneous copy. The ads with glaring errors were published on the front page of leading dailies like Times of India, Hindustan Times, etc in editions like Mumbai, Delhi, Gujarat, among others. The print ads were rolled out by the brand to put the spotlight on its inter-city service offerings.

While the ad in the Delhi edition of HT had grammatical errors like ‘planning to head to the Delhi’ and ‘anytime’ instead of any time, the Mumbai edition of TOI had Bhimsankar spelt as Bhimsankari with similar grammatical errors. And ever since it has appeared, Twitter has been abuzz with comments on the same. While some users have been calling it out as incompetence at multiple levels in a broken client-agency workflow system, others have pointed out that it could be edgy bait advertising to multiply the brand’s social media engagement. Some even questioned the brand’s creative agency-Ogilvy & Mather India, however in response to exchange4media’s query, O&M clarified that the work has not been done by the agency. 

According to industry estimates, the brand is pegged to have spent between Rs 3-5 crore overall on the print ad campaign. We asked industry observers how much this expensive mistake would cost Uber India.

According to Prathap Suthan, Managing Partner and Chief Creative Officer, Bang In The Middle, this is a collective blunder as the onus is on everyone from the agency who conceptualised it, to the brand-marketing team. Suthan feels that while it won’t take the sheen away from the brand or agency, it reflects the team’s laziness and ignorance that in turn reflects poorly on Uber India.

He observes, “The purists and the grammar nazis will have good laugh and that’s roughly the end of it. However, that doesn’t condone Uber or the agency from turning up with this mistake. Everyone who was part of the process - from the junior-most servicing person to the senior-most Creative Director on the brand are responsible. Don’t tell me none of them can’t read. Everyone was lazy and therefore accountable. Not just the poor copywriter who’d be in shambles. I would even hold the marketing people at Uber equally responsible. Their job isn’t to blindly pass the artwork on to the newspaper. They have an equal role to check and spot errors in the material that’s going out. Overall, it’s a collective blunder. And everyone in the brand team, both agency and client, are singularly and collectively at fault. “

Samit Sinha, Managing Partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting remarks it might be temporary but what makes it a severe embarrassment for Uber is that the ad fiasco has been picked up on social media. “This obviously is one hugely careless oversight. “Either the “the” before Delhi or perhaps a missing word like “pollution” or “traffic” or “winter” that was originally intended to come after Delhi but got omitted last minute for whatever reason. I suspect it was the latter, and they inadvertently left in the intruding “the” in the process. Despite the fact that it was a front-page full-page advertisement, the total amount of time spent on an average reading a newspaper is a mere few minutes. And advertisements, unless of course if great personal interest to the reader, merit hardly a glance. So the chances are that to the overwhelming majority of readers it would go unnoticed or be unremarkable at most. However, it doesn’t speak well of the agency and the final approving authority to have let it slip,” notes Sinha.

The company this year mounted a massive advertising as well as reward-based campaign for the ICC Cricket World Cup and leveraged IPL too in a big way. The brand also spends heavily on television and OOH advertising.

Harish Bijoor, Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, opines that this is an expensive error for sure. “The copywriter may as well have written, "the Dehli"! It sure is a bit of egg on Uber's face!!! These mistakes happen. They mustn’t. But they do but this too shall pass,” says Bijoor.

Meanwhile, Brand Expert, Gaurav Gulati points out that the truth is at least 5 out of 10 people will only read the headline, and only rest will read the complete advertisement. “If you agree with this golden rule, it should be obvious why the brand needs to focus more on headlines. An advertisement on any platform whether print media or electronic media, is not only the first point of contact for new customers, but also it acts as a gateway for brand positioning and brand revenue. In this competitive world, there is no second chance for the ‘FIRST IMPRESSION.’ Any single error committed by a brand in an advertisement not only costs it its brand reputation but it also negatively affects the image of the advertising platform as well,” remarks Gulati.

Uber India is projected to post revenue of Rs 339 crore for its ride-hailing service and a negative of Rs. 762.5 crore for its food delivery service for the five-month period between August and December 2019. The brand has finalised a four-fold expansion of its operations in the country from 52 cities to 200 by the end of next year. The key driver of this expansion will be not car-hailing but bike-taxi service, which was launched in India in July this year. Such service has been rolled out in 30 cities, doing over 150,000 trips a day, though it is not there in the big states of Maharashtra and Karnataka, where it is working through regulations. 

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