Uber had a good week. It wasn’t just thanks to a strong earnings report that beat Wall Street’s expectations—but the long-running ride-sharing platform actually turned a full-year profit for the first time, ever. Attention turns now to this weekend, when a high-priced, star-studded ad for its Uber Eats service will run during a Super Bowl matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers.
The 60-second ad, featuring Friends alumni Jennifer Aniston and David Schwimmer along with David and Victoria Beckham—as well as musicians Usher and Jelly Roll—does not come cheap: A 30-second spot during the big game this year costs $7 million, up from $900,000 three decades ago.
Is it worth it? Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi believes so—but only because of the power of celebrities on social media.
“These big stars, they cost a lot, but they deliver a lot,” he told Bloomberg. He noted the stars use their own social media accounts to amplify the ad’s message, which in this case is to remember that Uber Eats delivers groceries, flowers, and other things in addition to restaurant meals.
The memory theme underpins the ad. Schwimmer bumps into Aniston, who can’t remember him despite working with him on one of TV’s most successful series for 10 seasons. She then pretends to remember him before admitting that, no, she doesn’t.
Similarly, the Beckhams have unlikely memory lapses in the ad. “Remember when you used to be a pepper lady?” the soccer legend asks his wife. The Spice Girls alum answers, “Wasn’t it the cinnamon sisters?” Their banter goes on to include “paprika girls” and “basil babes.”
Jelly Roll forgets about his face tattoos, asking in shock while looking in the mirror, “Did someone doodle on my face?!” Usher, talking to stagehands, forgets he’s playing in this year’s halftime show, telling them wistfully, “I hope I get to play a halftime show someday, man.”
On its own, suggested Khosrowshahi, the ad is not worth the price—but with social media, it makes sense.
“So it’s not just about the commercial, it’s about people talking about the commercials, it’s about the stars using their Instagram accounts to amplify the platform, et cetera,” he said. “That’s why it’s working out for us. We think it’s worth the investment.”
The ride-hailing giant has rebounded after getting crushed during the pandemic, when it laid off thousands of workers and shut dozens of offices around the world. The cost-cutting extended into last month, with Uber announcing it’s shuttering Drizly, an alcohol-delivery business it bought for over $1 billion in 2021. Now it plans to instead offer alcohol via the Uber Eats platform.
“It was a tough decision there,” Khosrowshahi said this week. “Should we put the next marketing dollar behind Uber Eats—ie, a Super Bowl commercial—or should we put [it] to introduce the Drizly brand to consumers?”
He added, “It didn’t make sense to keep investing in Drizly.”