As you can tell, I don’t follow football. But, the ads… the ads were something else.
Uber Eats and DoorDash ran ads about how important it is to support local businesses. They used beloved celebrities: Cardi B, Mike Meyers, Dana Carvey, Daveed Diggs (who starred in Broadway’s “Hamilton”), Big Bird.
Uber Eats played on "Wayne’s World"'s “local access show” schtick, summing things up with the tagline: “Eat local. Support local.” DoorDash wandered through the "Sesame Street" neighborhood, closing with a commitment to donate a dollar from every order to Sesame Workshop.
These ads used every trick to pull every heartstring: nostalgia for our "Wayne’s World" / "Sesame Street" childhoods, the cool factor of being associated with Cardi B and Diggs, guilt about not doing more to support your community.
But Uber Eats and DoorDash themselves do not care about your community. Not one little bit.
The two companies, along with other delivery platforms like GrubHub and Seamless, charge restaurants a 30% commission on your delivery order. As The New Yorker put it: “For a sense of why a [30%] charge is so problematic, consider that in the restaurant world, notorious for its slim profit margins, an industry-standard budget apportions 30% of revenue for the cost of ingredients, 30% for the cost of labor, and the remainder for ‘everything else’ -- rent, utilities, insurance, supplies, credit-card fees, and profit.”
The delivery companies claim the orders they generate are “incremental”: additional to what a restaurant would otherwise make.
Pre-pandemic, the claim was already suspect: that same New Yorker article quotes Justin Rosenberg, CEO of the Philadelphia-based fast-casual chain Honeygrow, as saying, “It’s total bullshit, and you can quote me on that. I’ve spoken to C.F.O.s of bigger fast-casuals, and they’ve said the same thing.”
In a pandemic-shattered world, the claim is even more preposterous. Restaurant revenues have plummeted, obviously, and the vast majority of what remains is delivery.
Chopping off an additional 30% of that revenue is a death sentence. And yet here are UberEats and DoorDash, pretending the exact opposite: that using their platforms is the best thing you can do if you actually care about your community. There’s no way the delicious flavors from your favorite local eatery can compete with the sour taste of Uber’s hypocrisy.
But that’s just food delivery. The real winner of the Terrible Super Bowl Ads Bowl has to be the NFL itself, which had the nerve to air a spot touting its commitment to social justice. “Inspire Change” featured stirring music and stirring footage of Black Lives Matter protests against a backdrop of LaDanian Tomlinson’s stirring Hall of Fame speech about how football brings people together, culminating in the announcement of a $250 million commitment to help end systemic racism.
This is the same organization that blackballed Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem. The organization with 100% white owners and 91% white head coaches. The organization that was, at that very minute, hosting a superspreader event for a disease that, if you are Black, is 3.7x more likely to put you in the hospital, and 2.8x more likely to kill you.
Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s great that the NFL is making the commitment. But the self-serving nature of the ad begs the question: Do they actually care about racial justice, or do they care about being able to say they care?
Tom Brady may have done a pretty good job. But when it came to the ads, the real Super Bowl champion was hypocrisy.