Speaking at Cannes Lions, Paul Wright, Advertising Lead for Uber UK and Ireland, explained why he believes attention measurement may be key to understanding the effectiveness of Uber’s ad formats.

It’s been two years since Uber Advertising launched – how far into the journey of setting up an ad business are you?

This time last year we were active in 10 markets; now we're in over 30. We've moved very quickly to activate all the things from Journey Ads to what we do on Uber Eats.

What's been the key focus in terms of getting the ad business up and running?

We have standardised formats across the globe. Journey Ads look the same in any country, as does Sponsored Listings, and the Sponsored Items Ads do with Criteo. That consistency makes it a lot easier to scale. The second thing is a big commitment from the company to make this a key pillar of Uber’s growth as a business.

We are quite early in our journey; there's a lot still to do. There's a lot we don't know, and we've got to understand. What is the impact of Journey Ads when someone is spending 100 seconds in an ad and we have a high click-rate? What does that mean, relative to what we know about digital marketing, which has traditionally been chasing volume and very low click rates? It could be very interesting from an attention point of view.

What will be your approach to attention research and measurement across Uber platforms?

Obviously, there are standardised ways of looking at attention in digital marketing. Whether that's right, I don't know. If you have the long attention that we have, what impact does that have? Some publishing websites bombard you with ads – in contrast we have a very clean experience, so we think there's something there in attention. That makes a difference, but we haven't ascertained it all yet.

Uber doesn’t necessarily tick an obvious box from a budget allocation standpoint for clients and agencies, so what impact has that had?

I think there's also structural issues within clients as well. If we look at CPGs, you have e-commerce teams and brands teams. We talk direct to the e-commerce teams and through an agency for the brand teams. The smart clients are saying, ‘Hang on, this data that the commerce team has is really, really helpful for us.’ Brand teams want to start using customer data in a way that they haven't been able to do before.

On the agency side, we fit into various areas. Yes, the retail media area through our partnership with Criteo. With Journey Ads being a new product, you always have to push the boundaries. What we're doing there is case studies and brand lift studies. Does video change the engagement? Do playable ads encourage better recall? We have to demonstrate to the market the great value of these products.

What evidence do you have so far to make the case for formats like Journey Ads?

There's the attention point. The two big formats we think about in terms of attention are Post-Checkout Ads, which is once you complete a transaction on UberEATS and that moment where you're waiting to see when the rider is going to join you. That's a powerful moment, and we do a lot of work with streaming companies in that area. It's pretty obvious that you might do something while you're eating, and that could be jumping on the next movie or series. Equally, it might work for a CPG or for a restaurant.

The attention piece works equally well in the rides experience. The average Uber ride is about 25 minutes, and engagement in the app is just under 10% of that. What we're working on is to understand how that impacts brand lift and brand favourability? We’re starting to see some positive results. It's a single ad and you're in that attentive moment. Equally, we research our customers about ads, and they seem to be very positive about it.

Particularly with the ride hailing element, is there some overlap with the OOH ad experience, which consumers tend to be quite favourable towards?

Yeah – it’s dead time. The best advertisers we work with always contextualise the message anyway. If you're going to Heathrow Airport and the advertiser can actually recognise your context, that’s way better than half of internet advertising. Even if you're not necessarily going to be converted to the product, for whatever reason, I think you'll probably appreciate the context.

Where does Uber Ads sit in the purchase journey? Is it more of a conversion tool?

No – I think Journey Ads and what we do with in-car tablet ads is very much upper-funnel, and unique upper-funnel because of the clarity and simplicity of it. We've got mid funnel and lower-funnel elements across the app ecosystem. This, I guess, is where commerce media perhaps has an interesting advantage over pure retail media, because you have those places to take that message further. We see that, and now it's our job to demonstrate that to the wider world.

We’re doing campaigns with a couple of CPGs, which started with Journey Ads initially for brand awareness and then they led through to transaction on UberEATS. Magnum used a video ad showing you the different ice cream flavours and then that you clicked through and you went straight into UberEATS, and then you can transact. That's a very important part of the journey for commerce media, taking it from that higher funnel down into the transaction.

Where have you seen particularly strong take-up at a category level?

Luxury brands do a lot with us because they like the environment and the ability to target people in luxury shopping areas, or even going to airports. We’ve done a lot of work with streaming companies, and food delivery and gaming do tend to sit well together, so there's an opportunity there. Pretty much all sectors have tried to varying degrees, it's just an awareness thing.

Do you mostly work with advertisers through managed service or are you becoming more programmatic?

Criteo has its own self-serve platform, and our Sponsored Listings business is self-serve as well. We've just announced early-stage programmatic roll-out for Journey Ads with The Trade Desk, DV360 and Yahoo. We've got to develop that – it's not a complete off-the-shelf solution. But we know the industry wants to go that way, we'll work out how we do it with the ecosystem we have.

In which areas are advertisers challenging you to improve? For instance, measurement tools?

There’s always a debate about measurement tools. As a responsible media platform, we are working with people at the IAB on standards. But we also have to do our own measurement to help people understand the value and then find ways of making that easier to access for advertisers. That will take some time. Uber is a very metrics-driven business, so we will continue on that journey, I'm sure.

One of the big trends in retail media is the application of commerce data elsewhere in the media ecosystem. Is that something you’re currently exploring at Uber?

We are in the process of testing clean rooms, which is important part of data matching. A lot of people ask when we will let our data go off-site, and that's not decision we've made yet. We have our ecosystem, and we want to work our ecosystem effectively. Obviously, our data is very valuable. We know where the industry wants to go and we will work with the industry accordingly.

What is next on the roadmap for Uber Advertising?

We’ve been asked a lot around clean rooms, so we plan to work on those projects and get those rolled out. Formats are always an area we're innovating in – there’s a bigger conversation around playable formats. We've only really just launched video in the international market, so there's plenty to go with that. There's also elements of improved shoppability and opportunities around that purchase moment. It's how you capture that moment in the right way with advertising. Our principle is always that the consumer comes first. We're never going to start putting ads that get in the way of that consumer experience because that doesn't work for us as a business.

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