Commentary

Uber's Retail Media Network Should Act Like TV Streamers -- Offering Free Stuff


Uber is launching an advertising unit that will allow marketers to target ads based on wherever you go. But if you are already going there -- for example, Morton's The Steakhouse -- do you need any more messaging associated with that trip?

Maybe a beverage. When you get there you might need a nice branded Patron Tequila. Or perhaps you are thinking about where you might go to dinner a few nights later, like the Cheesecake Factory.

Perhaps while thinking about that snazzy European car you always dream about -- from a car that rolls by from your window view -- a brand new BMW appears on that Uber in-car tablet screen.

But let's be frank. The Uber ad network is something that boosts the whole idea of the "retail media network." I mean, who doesn't love the idea of being a network? So let's act like one.

Uber will join other wannabe retail networks -- especially big retailers like Walmart and Amazon. 

New wannabe companies look to delve ever deeper into establishing their retail media networks -- all so advertisers can access and match their data with Uber’s first-party data.

And competition will grow -- even if these network businesses are a side-hustle to retailers' main business.

So while all advertising sellers may be looking at one side of this business equation, we wonder whether they may offer something akin to what other new streaming TV platforms offer: Free stuff.

For Uber that would be free rides. Maybe a lot of them. 

Perhaps there could be a limited advertising option as well -- and maybe an audience guarantee.

And we could go further. New retail companies doing networks should also provide some top-flight content.

For Uber, short 10-minute clips may work in a similar way to what the defunct Quibi had. But perhaps they might include self-contained entertainment content that lasts around 20 minutes -- which could be the duration of an average ride.

Does Walmart want to sell advertising on part of its site? Free groceries would be a fair exchange.

But not for everything. For Uber, brand marketers like rental cars, and Lyft may need to find another ride. 

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