Uber Tackles Drunk Driving This Holiday Season


Absolut Uber Don't drink and Drive - UK 2017

The European Union created a negative end to Uber’s annus horribilis when its highest court declared the Silicon Valley-based disruptor a transportation business and taxi service, meaning it will face stricter and more expensive licensing requirements.

At the same time, Uber is emphasizing that the sharing economy can be a caring economy. It’s using its year-end holiday marketing to highlight its corporate citizenship efforts and how its unique ride-sharing platform can create safer journeys for customers to and from their seasonal festivities to minimize drunk driving.

The brand announced, for instance, a designated rider campaign with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Rough Night‘s actress Jillian Bell in the U.S. ahead of Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

The collaboration aims to help keep roads safe by getting people to commit to be a “designated rider” if their festivities include alcohol. Uber and MADD first partnered around the 2015 Super Bowl.

“We want to help join designated drivers with designated riders because when combined, they are making the roads safer for everyone,” Kate Parker, a Trust & Safety executive with Uber, said in a press release.

Uber is also promoting the “Safe Rides Pledge” in New York state this holiday season: “When you take the pledge, you will be entered for the chance to win free roundtrip rides in participating cities (up to $50 each way) for 20 friends, family members, or colleagues to get to and from a holiday event of your choice.”

In the U.K., meanwhile, Uber is sponsoring an Absolut Vodka digital campaign targeting those most at risk of impaired driving—under-30-year-olds—with Uber Karaoke as an extension of the Pernod Ricard-owned brand’s #AbsolutNights campaign.

A short video with the message, “Enjoy your journey home this Christmas. Don’t drink and drive,” is being seeded on social media, supported by Uber.

Before U.S. Thanksgiving, Uber also announced a partnership with Meals on Wheels and a million-dollar donation to the not-for-profit hunger-alleviating organization.

While not suggesting that Uber is being cynical in these philanthropic holiday efforts, there’s no question that it has great reason to seek a greater reputation as a nice guy brand rather than just as a ubiquitous service.

Its founding take-no-prisoners culture included 14 notoriously aggressive cultural values such as “principled confrontation” and getting in others’ faces by “toe-stepping.” The Uber approach also included took drivers for granted, many of their employees allege. And then there was the ignominious removal of co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick for his role in creating a culture built on bad behavior.

Now, the company is working to patch up relationships with drivers as it ends what Uber called “180 days of change” under new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, in which Uber added 38 perks to help drivers earn more pay while also de-stressing their work. They range from making it easier for drivers to suggest improvements to in-app tipping.

In January, Uber will conduct the first meeting of a driver advisory forum, flying driver-members from around the country to San Francisco to discuss pressing issues with executives. Expect Khosrowshahi to be all ears to employees’ concerns, just as he was at the company’s recent global all-hands meeting.