Taxi mega firm Uber is the latest high profile business to turn to drone technology to boost its already-thriving profits, with an innovative campaign across Mexico City.
In a move that plays on drivers’ consciences, the company, which started in San Francisco in 2011 and posted net revenues of around $1.5bn in 2015, has been using drones to hover above idling traffic, displaying messages intended to remind solo drivers the damage they’re doing to the environment by choosing not to share their journey with others.
Such is the density of commuters on Mexico City’s choked highways, Uber has jumped at the chance to highlight the role each driver is playing in the worsening environmental conditions, with close-quarters messaging taunting road-users. The drones, equipped with clips that securely display the A3 card, adorned with the simple messages and the #UberPool hashtag, are a novel and ‘unignorable’ channel for delivering the targeted messages.
‘Driving by yourself?’ barks the signage, flying tantalisingly above the traffic jams in the 10th largest city in the world, ‘This is why you can never see the volcanoes!’ Smog has gotten so bad in the city that views of the surrounding topography, including two imposing volcanic peaks, are all but obliterated. And despite its air being thick with pollutants from the millions of daily commutes, Mexico City is officially Uber’s busiest city.
The drone campaign is part of Uber’s push to promote UberPOOL in Latin America, a clever move that simultaneously highlights the problem, and offers a solution, in a part of the world where it already services 65 major cities and where it was completing around 45 million rides a month by mid-2016. Nevertheless, Latin America is still viewed as ripe for expansion – even more so than its counterparts in Uber’s global-leading areas of North America and India.
By employing the swarm of flying messengers to patrol the highways, Uber joins global players like Amazon, EasyJet, Shell and DHL in harnessing the power of flight to analyse, assess and now communicate with customers.
Earlier this year, Uber demonstrated its willingness to make daring forays into the world of technological advancement, launching its first self-driving car service in Pittsburgh, USA. Among its fleet are cars fully loaded with a range of cameras, lasers and radar and GPS kit to help the vehicles to draw – and navigate – a 3D map of their position.
The Mexico City campaign is a piece of creative and novel marketing that helps Uber to repair some of the damage done by its ultimate failure to crack the Chinese market, where rival Didi Chuxing has utter dominance, while also turning focus onto its continuing use of technology to reach its customer base.
It remains to be seen whether Uber will roll out the Mexico City drone activity in its other major areas, or whether the stunt is a short-lived media campaign. Either way, it has proven a big success in Latin America, where slow-moving traffic is the ideal audience for its big message.