Sustainability Proves an Effective Way of Reaching Rideshare Passengers With Travel Ads

Octopus Ad Week Cover

Nearly 70% of Uber and Lyft users cited climate change as important

People riding in the back of an Uber or Lyft are a captive audience to ads being flashed across the tablet screens that hang over the backs of the seats. But Captive doesn’t always equal engaged. However, if the right message and the right format combine in a such setting, consumers lean in. And while it seems obvious that travel would appeal to rideshare hails, studies have shown that this is not always the case.

As airline and hotel demand starts to crawl back up from the depths of the health crisis amid rising vaccination rates, Octopus Interactive surveyed passengers to find out what kind of marketing messages and visuals would resonate with them. Would ads featuring exotic locales spark interest? Would low-cost deals for weekend getaways do the trick?

According to Octopus, which runs a national network of interactive screens inside of Uber and Lyft vehicles, messages that reflected passengers’ values regarding the environment and sustainability were most effective.

Values over deals

And not only do passengers appear to care about the kinds of marketing they’re seeing when they slip into the backseat, they may be just as likely to take note of the vehicle’s eco-friendly qualities as well.

Topline findings from the survey of 1,000 rideshare passengers across North America, conducted in February, show that:

• 67% of passengers listed climate change as either “very important” or “my No. 1 concern about the future.”

• 64% of passengers expect that their next vehicle purchase will have either all-electric or hybrid conveyance.

Meanwhile the same study shows that in mid-February there was pent-up demand and outsized optimism by younger, more affluent consumers.

 • 54% of respondents said traveling for a vacation was their first desire once restrictions are lifted. Dining/drinking indoors or attending a party at a private residence ranked next.

• 31% of respondents expect to take a domestic or international flight in spring 2021. About 21% expect to return to normal activities without masks at that time, despite indications from public health officials to the contrary.

Octopus COVID Rebound 2021

While these numbers may reveal more wishes than reality, they do appear to give advertisers some guidance on how to reach consumers who are ready to spend and make travel plans.

Is sustainability here to stay?

Aside from the eagerness of rideshare passengers to cast off the pandemic’s constraints, the survey suggests that these consumers are not simply heedless of the wider struggles of the world around them. Sustainability is a durable value that will continue to be key for reaching consumers.

Furthermore, messages that emphasize rideshare ad screens wrapping themselves in sustainability must also take care to watch out for an obvious disconnect: gas guzzling cars shepherding passengers around may actually undercut well-intended marketing shown in the back of a vehicle.

“Uber and Lyft both plan to be fully electric by 2030,” said Cherian Thomas, Octopus’ CEO. “They want to reduce their carbon footprint. It helps that the rideshare passenger is a much younger demographic than the general population. And they really care about sustainability and the environment.”

As a result of Gen-Z and Gen-Y’s climate concern, Thomas said he expects to see a future where riders will be presented with subsidized rates for taking an electric vehicle.

“Uber is  testing monetary incentives for drivers to earn more if they’re using an electric vehicle,” Thomas said. “They’re incentivizing drivers to actually go electric. And so I think that’s a great step in the right direction.”

Mindset matters

The importance of how and where the ad is delivered is borne out by findings from marketing researcher Morning Consult. “Consumers have elevated brands’ roles in society amid the pandemic, holding them more responsible for employee wellbeing, community livelihood and protecting the environment, among other things,” according to an analysis by Morning Consult’s Victoria Sakal.

In the context of ridesharing, the mindset of the passenger is influenced by several things, Thomas noted.

“The rider is the number one stakeholder and their mindset is the ultimate influencer on brand effectiveness,” Thomas said. “But there is a change emerging. For Octopus, we’re seeing a return of passenger and advertiser demand. seeing a return of passenger and advertiser demand. Q1 saw a 175% increase in net new advertisers compared to Q1 2020 and more than 100% increase in driver activity. So that means that not only is it coming back, it’s coming back with a vengeance. And that sense of recovery is what’s driving the positive mindset of consumers. And we expect that to keep going and reinforcing the trendlines we’ve been seeing on travel.”