Uber and Fiat Chrysler are taking an unusual tack in their ads during the coronavirus — urging people not to use their products.
A recent 60-second television ad from Uber shows a montage of scenes of people quarantining at home.
“Stay home for everyone who can’t,” the commercial says at the end. “Thank you for not riding with Uber.”
It’s not uncommon for companies to run ads that try to tap into a national mood during a time of crisis and tragedy, said Joseph Turow, professor at Annenberg School for Communication at University of Pennsylvania. But he said the Uber ad is unique in that it actually urges people not to use the product.
“Rhetorically speaking they’re aligning themselves with goals of the nation, all the things that make up the definition of America,” he said. “It’s saying ‘We’re part of this, think of us well.'” He said Uber is also doing some damage control after stories suggested its drivers were at risk carrying passengers during the crisis.
Thomas Ranese, Uber’s vice president of marketing, said the company will run the ad for the next two weeks to stress the importance of staying at home.
The public service announcement is “a company that is synonymous with movement, thanking you for not moving, because right now that helps save lives,” he said in a statement.
Fiat Chrysler isn’t specifically telling people not to buy cars. But a social media campaign on Friday told people to leave their cars parked and not drive for the time being.
It repurposed its “Groundhog Day” Super Bowl spot starring Bill Murray. But instead of showing him enjoying the repetition of the same day because of his chance to drive a Jeep, as the original spot did, this contains a message about being stuck at home.
“We understand that every day is starting to seem the same,” said the ad, before cutting to the original ad showing Bill Murray waking up again to the Sonny and Cher song “I’ve got you babe.”
“Stay home. Stay healthy” says the ad. It then shows a Jeep driving off road with the words “When this is all over, the trails will be waiting.”
It also has online ads featuring the Chrysler Pacifica and the company’s Ram and Alfa Romeo brands.
The Jeep ad is similar to ads that ran near the end of World War II, said Turow, as companies that had not been able to make consumer products during the war were promising customers they would be able to again buy their products again soon. The most famous of those ads was one that promised “There’s a Ford in your future.”
US car sales have fallen sharply during the crisis, with many dealerships closing or limiting sales.
“It’s pointing out that things are eventually going to change,” said Turow. And it’s trying to build future interest in the company’s products for when that change does occur, even if people can’t buy the product right now.