Like It or Not, Video Ads Are Coming to Uber Apps and Rides

The ads will be up to 90 seconds long and rolling out on Uber, Uber Eats and Drizly this week

Man and woman sitting in car looking at phone. Uber has announced video ads are coming to its apps and even on tablets in its cars.
"While you're stuck in here, can we tempt you with something from Uber Eats?"
Nisian Hughes / Getty

Because we don’t see enough ads in our life — and because rideshare apps know they’ve got your semi-attention for the few minutes before pickup and the several minutes you’re in a car — Uber has announced the rollout of “long-form videos” in its apps, including Uber, Uber Eats and Drizly.

Per The Wall Street Journal, these new and longer ads will run primarily on the ride-hailing app while users wait for their drivers to arrive and during their trips, as well as on tablets in some Uber vehicles. Meanwhile, in Uber Eats the video ads will run after customers place orders and continue until deliveries arrive. On Drizly they’ll run in search results on its app and website as well as “other areas of the site.”

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Why? Well, money. The Journal notes an increased interest in so-called retail media networks, which are ad platforms for consumer-facing companies that utilize their own customer data. And ad sales (the static kind of ads) have grown significantly on Uber.

“We have two minutes of your attention,” Mark Grether, vice president and general manager of Uber Technologies’ advertising division, told the newspaper. “We know where you are, we know where you are going to, we know what you have eaten…we can use all of that to then basically target a video ad towards you.”

If that sounds rather ominous, well, yeah. It is. Uber claims they don’t share an individual’s data with advertisers and the targeted ads are based on aggregate data. But they are using geographic data for these ads, which could be up to 90 seconds long and are intended to cross-promote Uber’s other services. Audio for ads on the apps will be muted by default, but users will have to manually turn off the audio and display components of the in-ride tablets (which is what we New Yorkers are used to in our taxis and, trust me, those display video ads are annoying.)

There’s a potential hazard to these ads as well. Wanna shut off an ad before it’s done playing on your app? If so, “users may temporarily be unable to access certain features in Uber’s apps, such as the safety tools and the ability to message a driver or Uber Eats courier,” notes Engadget (UPDATE 6/15: As a rep from Uber informed us shortly after this published, “Ads do not limit access to safety features or messaging.”).

The ads will start rolling out this week in the U.S.

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