Advertising Uber Crisis PR

Uber and Facebook are learning the hard way that saying 'sorry' is costly business


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

May 30, 2018 | 4 min read

Uber has spent almost $10m on apology TV ads in the US since May, according to data from TV ad measurement firm iSpot.


Facebook, too, has learned the hard way that regaining trust after a crisis like Cambridge Analytica is a costly exercise

The analytics company handed data to the Wall Street Journal, which claimed that since airing a network spot last month, fronted by new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi who promised a "new direction" from the ride-hailing app, the brand's media spend has run into the double-digit millions.

Facebook, too, has learned the hard way that regaining trust after a crisis like Cambridge Analytica is a costly exercise.

According to the numbers, it has spent some $30m on US TV commercials since it aired an ad on April 25 called 'Here Together'. The creative, which will also run OOH and across digital, assures users it is fixing issues like "spam, clickbait, fake news and data misuse" all without mentioning a single specific incident.

Where did it all go wrong?

Since last year, Uber has been relentlessly grabbing headlines for all the wrong reasons.

At the start of 2017, a scathing memo exposed a toxic workplace where sexual harassment and discrimination was openly ignored (leading to the abrupt exit of its former chief executive, Travis Kalanick, along with several other executives). It also attempted to cover up a massive data breach affecting over 50 million users.

In addition, the firm faced issues over its license in London, had an internal spy unit exposed, and has been the subject of government investigations on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as repeatedly fighting lawsuits to limit the rights of its drivers.

Khosrowshahi, along with marketing boss Bozoma Saint John, have sought to bring a more transparent approach to the business' marketing; however, it would seem this comes at a significant expense if iSpot's data is anything to go by.

Facebook's issues, meanwhile, have also been well publicized, ranging from the spread of fake news within its walls, the mammoth Cambridge Analytica scandal and questions over how Russian bots used the platform to manipulate democracy.

While its own pseudo apology ad was aired loud and proud during the NBA Conference finals in the US just last week, the brand has also taken out full page ads across Europe and in the UK to explain its position on opening up privacy controls for users in recent months.

Wells Fargo, which has also been caught up in controversies involving staff opening accounts without customers’ knowledge, has also been the purveyor of a slick TV apology ad this month.

The bank has close to $21.5m on its 'Earn Back Your Trust' creative since it kicked off on 5 May, according to estimates from iSpot.

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