Culture Jam: Uber



The gig economy is growing and nowadays people are often searching for meaning in their work and a purpose for doing what they do. Along those lines, people want to be their own bosses and have flexibility in their schedule and their life. This Uber advertisement plays on all of that with a scene of the sunset and a driver. Everyone dreams of riding into the sunset in their car and that is the ultimate depiction of freedom. There is no need to focus on the actual car or which skyline is in the picture, the only focus is on what the future may bring if you choose to drive with Uber. The person in the ad is staring off into the horizon where the grass is surely greener. Uber is trying to sell a lifestyle of opportunities, which you can achieve by becoming a driver with them. However, the ad fails to highlight Uber’s questionable practices and the actual working conditions for Uber drivers. The flexible schedules come with a price: contractor status, no benefits, long hours, minimal pay, and a lifestyle that most would not expect from that ad.

There is still a possibility of sunny skies for drivers but by being a driver with Uber, you would be endorsing their company policies. When moving into new markets, Uber often employs technologies and tactics to get drivers on the roads quicker and to thwart any regulations that banned their services. None of this is shown in the ad, which has no information about the qualifications you require to be a driver. Becoming a driver with Uber is not arduous, requiring only a background check and vehicle inspection. An average person driving an average looking car shows the audience that anyone can select this path and that it would be the “best choice.” The ad uses the word “drivers”, without qualifying it, which means that anyone who drives can likely be a driver so why would you not select this path.

Jammed Uber Advertisement

The jammed ad highlights two things: the possible illegality of Uber’s practices and the constraints that one may face if they choose to drive with Uber. For most of us, Uber is a convenient and welcomed innovation to the transportation industry and our commute. Before their recent slew of bad publicity, we were likely ignorant to their contentious practices. For instance, Uber used a tool called Greyball to hide their activities in cities where they were banned, or in new cities where regulations were unclear. One of the techniques is to look at the rider’s credit card and see if it was connected to the police (to avoid sting operations). Additionally, using non-commercial cars helps keep prices low but the practice is illegal in many cities that Uber operates.

Besides utilizing controversial technology, they have developed a bad company culture. With complaints of sexual harassment incidents being ignored, executives making inappropriate jokes during serious meetings, and the firing of more than 20 employees after internal investigations, being an Uber driver means you are supporting a company that may never recover its reputation, even after the resignation of their CEO.

Lastly, most drivers do not live glorious lives. A Bloomberg article revealed that Uber does not make efforts to help their drivers and that many drivers were sleeping in their cars because they could not afford to live in the places that they worked. Uber takes large commissions from its drivers but provides few benefits and support. The control that driving with Uber is supposed to give is also not absolute as Uber uses psychological tricks in the app to nudge drivers to do certain things, such as driving for longer or in certain areas. There are many issues with the company that people do not know about before signing up to be a driver and that is what the jammed ad is trying to portray. Seeing the ad should not give you a warm feeling and a sense of hope but should instead make you think more thoroughly about what it really means to be an Uber driver.

For more information, I’ve included links to articles regarding Uber’s recent (negative) publicity: