Uber’s newest marketing campaign in Singapore carried out with BBH, an advertising agency, involves a large tissue paper packet branded with the words “Chope King” and a parking lot in the city.
The transportation technology company revealed that it used this marketing stunt to highlight the troubles faced by drivers in Singapore, in particular, limited parking spaces. In order to increase the reach of their campaign, Uber also worked with local celebrity and influencer Michelle Chong, content creator network SGAG and satire site SMRT Feedback among other popular Singaporean personalities on social media in a seeding campaign.
This is stunt appears to be part of the company’s Unlocking Cities campaign, which highlights the issue of vehicle overcrowding that many South-East Asian cities face. Uber presents itself, and its car-sharing platform, as the solution to such problems.
Uber officially launched in Singapore four years ago in February 2013, shortly before Grab, Uber’s current largest competitor in the market, launched its ride-hailing services in October of the same year. Competition is stiff, given the presence of the local taxi fleet as well as other private-hire companies. Some have suggested that the market has reached its saturation point, with many rental cars left unused in car park spaces across the city state.
While Uber already has a global presence, it needs to reach out to local consumers in its advertising efforts in order to ensure that it remains competitive within the country. The recent “Chope King” tissue paper packet marketing stunt is an example of such localization.
In Singaporean lexicon, the word “chope” is a verb that refers to the act of reserving a seat or a table, usually in fast food restaurants or hawker centers. This is usually done by placing a packet of tissue paper on the spot one wishes to reserve before going to purchase one’s food.
While the culture of “chopeing” has come under scrutiny recently, with a number of Singaporeans writing to The Straits Times forum to discuss the nature and desirability of this behavior, the act of reserving a seat using tissue paper packets, especially during peak hours where available seats are hard to come by, is undeniably a Singaporean phenomenon.
Uber’s choice to integrate this local phenomenon into its advertising and marketing efforts is laudable and is certainly not the first time it has attempted to localize its content.
Past Advertising Efforts
In 2016, Uber launched its ‘Make Your Move’ campaign, encouraging people to get out of the house and implicitly, to use Uber to bring them to their desired locations.
Aside from the above campaign video, Uber also took to advertising in the MRT, Singapore’s cross-island railway transport system.
While there are several versions of the ad, this one says, “Because nights to remember start by leaving home. Make your move.”
More recently, it also ran the “Where is More Than a Place” campaign, featuring Singapore’s Gillman Barracks.
While it seems like the advertisements were conceptualized with great effort, it is unclear what kind of impact they have had on the Singaporean social media space. While both of the videos mentioned above appear to have quite a significant number of hits, this could be because they are sponsored ads that appear before the start of other videos, thus adding to the hit count every time a user is made to watch the video.
In addition, with reference to the recent “Chope King” marketing stunt, while the posts made by Michelle Chong, SGAG and SMRT Feedback did receive quite a number of likes and comments, it is unclear how many users know that the promotion was actually a marketing stunt by Uber, or perhaps more importantly, what Uber’s message was meant to be. In addition, a quick search for “Uber Chope King” and similar search terms on Google, Twitter and Instagram also reveal very few relevant hits.
Furthermore, while several news platforms did write about the stunt, all appear to use the same image (pictured at the start of our post) to talk about the campaign. This suggests that if the prop had actually been left at a parking lot in Singapore, few netizens actually saw the prop or were prompted to take photographs of and share it on social media. It seems then that organic engagement developed from the marketing stunt was limited.
Is Uber’s marketing actually reaching its target audience? Will its advertising efforts help it remain competitive in the Singaporean market? Or will it capitulate in the face of its competitor, Grab? These are some questions whose answers remain to be seen, but it seems like Uber will have to up its marketing game if it wishes to increase the impact of its advertisements.