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Digital in mind, Uber’s adspend to remain the same in 2020, says Manisha Lath

The Marketing Director of Uber India and South Asia tells about the brand’s recent print ad faux pas. She talks about upcoming marketing trends, the brand’s latest campaigns for Auto and Moto and their ad spends for 2020

Manisha Lath

For Uber India, 2020 will be a focus year for high-value products such as Uber Intercity. The brand will keep safety at the pivot, and continue to add features that keep its drivers safe on the platform while creating more awareness around it. Digital in mind, Uber’s ad budget will largely remain the same in the next year.

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“Our drivers, partners and our earners are a big part of our marketplace, if we don't have them, we don't have a marketplace. So, we will find marketing-driven ways to attract people to come and drive on our platform. We hope to see some campaigns around drivers and lastly we are a global brand that shows up locally and so for us to be hyper local is important. How we show up at airports and transit points is another focus area,” said Manisha Lath, Marketing Director, Uber India and South Asia.

In an interaction with, Lath said that for one of the world’s largest on-demand mobility company, being digital-first fits well with the product category. Having excluded television from its marketing channels, she said for 2020, the ad budget should by and large remain unchanged. With bigger things in the pipeline, the brand plans to be more insightful in the campaigns. And to achieve this, the idea is to tap into universal insights and then execute them locally. The budget would vary a lot from campaign to campaign but priority is digital only. 

Asked how data in the category and for the brand will change the game of marketing, Lath said, “A lot of usage of ML tools, programmatic, DCO (digital creative optimizer) that we are definitely seeing are increasing, and for us it is going to be more of them because we a hyper-local brand, and we want to show people relevant ads at the relevant time and thus personalised. And that is the future as well— hyper local, personalised and micro marketing. With this, we will be getting more vernacular.”

She said the next year will have more of purpose-led advertisements for brands. A lot many brands do go for ‘purpose’-led advertising, but for them to understand that purpose has to be at the core of the brand and the company as well is vital.

“A lot of brands and marketers are being pushed to find purpose when none exists and I think companies have to re-evaluate and start looking at what responsibility they carry. You can’t force-fit a purpose. You have to have a purpose that delivers. You have to walk the talk,” she said.

Talking about Uber India’s recent print ad goof up, Lath said that ‘everyone shares the onus of any failure’ and that the brand had now moved on and was now focusing upon the recent campaign launches.

“People have talked about this enough; we want to focus on the new campaigns. I think marketing is such a collaborative process. And I think so many people come together to deliver a marketing campaign. Start with consumers, research agencies, advertising agencies, media planners. It is a huge collaboration among many people and I think we all share the credit for success. We all share the responsibility of the failures as well, together,” she said. 

The brand recently announced the launch of two new campaigns. For Uber Auto ‘Badey Iradon Ki Choti Sawari’, aimed at women travellers and for Uber Moto ‘Sapnon Par Hoja Sawar’, which targets the male first-jobber/working professional. Both the campaigns are to empower riders with accessible, seamless and safe shared mobility solutions. The campaigns are against a backdrop of rapid growth in its Auto and Moto businesses.

Uber Auto campaign:

Launching two campaigns that target two different groups at the same time can surely hamper the positioning of a brand. Lath justified the launches, saying how the brand has sharp insights and TGs for each of the two. And thus, for them to overlap is merely impossible. Both are very low cost products in the portfolio.

Talking about the target audience for Uber Auto, she said, “It's very important for us now to drive the next wave of growth as most of the Indians commute in auto rickshaws. So, this is a large segment for us to tap into. We tried to differentiate Uber Auto with even roadside hail auto and we understood the needs of this particular segment.  We felt women were the right TG to focus upon, because a lot of insights suggested many women suffer because of a lack in transportation. Since safety is a bigger concern, we believe in unlocking the potential of millions of women who don't go out and pursue their aspirations. Also secondary data showed us that in India, there's only one female in every four commuters. This service ensures doorstep pickup, enabling you to track the ride.”

Since, Uber Auto is present in 29 cities in the country; it will launch the campaign only in these cities. It will extend it to many more cities in the next year. The campaign will be seen across digital, print and OOH mediums, excluding TV.

“When you have a city footprint, which is right now only about 29, TV becomes a very inefficient medium to kind of experiment. So, that is why we are going ahead with the digital plan and also OOH and print. It is a very hyper local campaign because we are sharply targeting these cities. But otherwise it’s a very universal campaign as well. So we can take the same communication and scale it to any number of cities,” she added. 

While using the same channels, Uber Moto targets first-time workers in the 22-28 age group with entry-level jobs. The brand believes this service will allow them to cut down time and money on commute dramatically.

The campaigns will be out in the market till mid-February next year and the brand plans to keep extending it to new markets when it has enough supply in those cities.

Asked about the expectations from both campaigns, Lath said, “We first want people to know that our platform has these new services. We want to know how many people have actually tried the products. So this is really our objective from both the campaigns.”

Apart from that, the brand had recently done a branded content activity with NBA for ‘Hoop Nation’, which Lath said was a very small-scale activity, with almost no media behind that. 

Asked if the brand plans to explore branded content marketing further, she said, “We look for ideas that work for us and then decide if content can be the right fit. If you plug it forcefully, you lose credibility. We believe we should ideally do content when we feel that content will do justice to the marketing objectives. And then the content has to be good enough to travel with a very low budget on social networks. If you have to spend money to advertise your content, then the content is not doing justice.”

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