Yesterday, a somewhat sheepish TechCrunch employee forwarded the above screenshots to our team, showing what looks like an advertisement for Uber on dating app Tinder. The promotion offers first-time users $20 off if they sign up to Uber using a promo code.
There’s only one problem: The ad wasn’t placed by Uber.
Using the screen name “Uberly,” the advertisement promises new users a $20 discount on their first ride:
January: Free $20 when you download Uber
Just enter promo code 8177y
New accounts only, limited time offer. Tinder on ;)
We reached out to both Uber and Tinder about the account after we saw it, thinking maybe it was some sort of marketing campaign.
As Tinder recently began running its first so-called native ads for Fox’s The Mindy Project not long ago, and that Uber has done co-marketing partnerships with any number of different startups over the years, it didn’t seem totally unusual that the two would intersect.
Yet, there was something weird about the promotion. For one thing, the user name is “Uberly,” not Uber. Also, the childish photoshop doesn’t really match Uber’s ultra-sleek design aesthetic.
And from the Tinder side, it’s one thing to run ads of actual people like Mindy Kaling. It’s a whole other thing to promote a brand with a fake profile.
Anyway, an Uber representative tells us that the ad was not placed by the on-demand ride service after all. When asked where it came from, she suggested it was probably an Uber user trying to stock up on $20 referral credits using a personalized promo code, but couldn’t confirm it.
Tinder didn’t get back to us, but it’s a pretty safe bet that the account violates its Terms of Service, specifically the part about not “engag[ing] in commercial activities and/or sales without our prior written consent such as contests, sweepstakes, barter, advertising, and pyramid schemes” and the part about not “infring[ing] any third party’s copyrights or other rights (e.g., trademark, privacy rights, etc.).”
So why would a person do such a thing?
Besides the fact that it’s ingenious, one theory floated by the TechCrunch team is that sending an Uber to pick up your date is apparently becoming a “thing.” One TechCrunch staffer wrote:
I heard that its a new thing that girls are expecting to be picked up in an Uber. It’s the next version of having the guy pay for the check. On an unrelated note, I’m going to have to sell my organs for money.
This stirred up some debate within the team, with the more levelheaded among us urging our co-worker not to sell his organs. Another staffer said ladies expecting this type of thing would fall under his personal “Rule of People Not To Date.”
But then, we’re just a bunch of
poor middle-income journalists trying to get by in a city of dot-com social media millionaires.
And we’re maybe just a little bit jealous we didn’t think of this first.
Update: Tinder confirms to TechCrunch that this is indeed against their Terms of Service, and says it will continue to take steps to keep bots and fakes off of the service.