Uber cancels ChatGPT-written ad campaign after San Francisco locals mock it

As Uber is publicly mocked for inaccurate local references, it’s clear that “local real estate content, needs local real estate knowledge.” – Ayman Alashkar, Founder and CEO overwrite.ai

In terms of oblivious advertising, Uber’s latest San Francisco campaign may have bested the time the Giants released those “SAN FRAN” tees or when Gwyneth Paltrow called it the “Golden City.” 

According to a Reddit post shared last Wednesday, titled “Uber has put up ads at SFO that were written by someone who’s never set foot in San Francisco,” the ride-hailing company has debuted a set of new ads at SFO that feel like they were written by ChatGPT. 

“See you in Marina District,” the first proclaims. 

The dropping of the definite article here is just bizarre — and not even the worst thing about the ad.

No one has ever said those words out loud, in that order, and if they have, they should be forced to spend 24 hours in the city’s only Applebee’s.

The Marina ad also features a pretty sunset view of … Sausalito, a town 8 miles from the Marina and far outside the San Francisco city limits, above the words: “Go anywhere in San Francisco.” 

Could it be, as one commenter speculated, that a hasty stock image search for “Marina” dropped the “a” and returned photos of Marin? 

It’s hard to imagine any Uber employee who knows San Francisco saw the photo of the iconic houseboats across the Golden Gate Bridge and greenlighted the ad. It’s also hard to imagine why, of all the wonderful neighborhoods our city has to offer, anyone would choose the Marina, but that’s a different issue. 

The next ad is marginally less egregious. Another romantic photo is shown, this time of a place actually in San Francisco — the little lamp-lit wooden dock at Pier 7. 

“See you at Embarcadero,” the ad proudly states. Uber has again neglected the “the” here. Also, good luck trying to get an Uber to the end of the pedestrian-only fishing dock. 

The final ad, promoting a ride to the Mission, is also somehow worded in a way that would make you squirm if you ever heard it out loud: “See you at the Mission.” 

Unless you’re meeting pals at the historic Misión San Francisco de Asís adobe building on Dolores Street, the phrasing is begging for an “in” over an “at.”

Reddit comments

Reddit posters were quick to note the uncanny incongruities in the ads. 

“See you at the mission made me break out in hives,” one commented. 

“This is like when someone says ‘The Bart,’” wrote another. 

Another summed it up well: “Nothing seems human about those ads.”

Being displayed at the airport, the ads are likely targeted at tourists over local residents. But Uber is headquartered in San Francisco, so it seems unlikely a city resident wouldn’t have reviewed the campaign before sending it to print.

Or maybe Uber got exactly what it wanted from the campaign. “This ad did its job,” one Redditor pointed out. “By purposely being bad so that it gets everyone talking.”

Uber told SFGATE on Thursday that the campaign has since been canceled.

“We’re glad people are paying attention to our ads!” a spokesperson wrote over email. “And while we’re happy we didn’t refer to our home city as ‘Frisco,’ we agree these ads, which are in the process of being removed, could have been better.” 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of overwrite.ai and its owners.

Andrew Chamings writes for SFG.

This story has been published from an article in SFG published on 9th February 2023.

For informative news and views on the world of real estate, proptech and AI, follow overwrite on Instagram and LinkedIn, and keep up-to-date with our weekly NewsBites blog.

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