Lyft Mocks Uber in New Ad Campaign

Second-largest U.S. ride-sharing service shaves its pink mustache symbol

This screenshot shows an ad from a Lyft marketing campaign launched in late 2016

In an ad, three executives in black suits sit in black chairs in a black room, plotting against ride-sharing startup Lyft Inc. 

"We've got to slow them down. How are we going to do it?" one executive asks. "Spikes strips?" his colleague suggests. The words "Ride Corp" hang behind them. But you know what company they really work for.

This is one of four 30-second ads that Lyft plans to roll out on cable and network television this year. The campaign will also run on buses and in Times Square. The company won't say how much it's spending on the ads. But one thing is for sure: It puts U.S. ride-hailing leader Uber Technologies Inc. in the crosshairs.

"We know that passengers prefer Lyft," said Tali Rapaport, the San Francisco-based company's head of product. "We also know that passengers have a choice."

Uber and Lyft are fighting for market share in the U.S. After Lyft started making gains at the beginning of the year, Uber cranked up spending. The company lost $100 million in the U.S. in the second quarter, while Lyft promised investors earlier this year to keep monthly spending under $50 million.

Lyft's new ad campaign suggests the war between the two can come down to marketing as much as anything else. The two companies have long competed by undercutting each other on price and improving how quickly they pick up riders. Today, both companies realize their brands can win customers too. 

Uber hired former Target Corp. Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Jones as president of its ride sharing business. In his first public statement since taking the job, Jones wrote in a post on LinkedIn Monday that his first priority is helping drivers. "Uber will do a much better job listening to drivers and serving their needs," Jones said.

While Jones tries to improve Uber's relationship with its drivers, Lyft is seizing on its competitor's sometimes cold, corporate reputation. In one ad, a callous executive asks, "Why are all the Lyft drivers so happy?" His colleague replies, "Maybe it's because Lyft lets passengers tip them in the app." A third executive chimes in, "They use the extra money to buy gifts for their family." All three "Ride Corp" executives burst into cackling laughter. The screen says, "Lyft, $100 million tips and counting." (Uber doesn't let riders tip their drivers in its app and Lyft does.)

Lyft also said it will phase out its glowing pink mustache in-car symbol and replace it with an oval-shaped device called an "Amp" with the company's name on it. The device displays different colors to help riders find their car more easily. Lyft plans to ship Amps to drivers in San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles by New Years Eve. Lyft said it will cover the cost, but declined to disclose how much it was paying to make the Amp.

Uber has in the past asked Lyft drivers to "Shave the 'Stache" and switch over to working for Uber. Now Lyft is making the cut itself.  

"The mustache was an incredible relic," Rapaport said during a meeting with reporters in San Francisco.