News and Insights

From Advocacy to Action: Changing a Multi-Million Dollar Super Bowl Ad

February 14, 2024

Some tune in for the love of the game, and others, solely for the commercials. Either way, Super Bowl Sunday is the prime opportunity for advertisers to reach the masses, with each $7 million commercial having the potential to garner more than 110 million viewers. 

To generate buzz ahead of the big game, advertisers often opt to release or to “tease” their gameday commercials early. But this year, the prerelease of an Uber Eats commercial got people talking — and not in the way the online food ordering and delivery platform expected. Instead, a flurry of real-time feedback flew in from an audience that was both offended and alarmed by their commercial—and to their credit, Uber Eats took action.

The Uber Eats commercial that aired at about 9 p.m. on Sunday night was an edited version of the original cut. It still featured cameos from Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, David and Victoria Beckham, and Usher – but one snippet was cut out … because of advocacy and action taken by the food allergy community.

The concept of the commercial is that to remember that Uber Eats delivers, you have to forget something else. To remember that Uber Eats delivers office supplies, one man forgot to wear pants to the office. Another presented a man forgetting that the main ingredient in peanut butter was peanuts – and facing the consequence of his food allergy. Each example was meant to be humorous—something that people simply wouldn’t forget—but severe food allergies are no laughing matter.

Food allergies affect more than 33 million people in the United States (1 out of every 13 children has a food allergy). While food allergy reactions can be mild, others can be severe and potentially life-threatening. All food allergies are serious, and some can progress to anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.

The community started a movement. Underscoring that awareness is key to driving change, the advocacy organization Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) joined the charge and called on Uber Eats to edit the commercial. “Life-threatening food allergy is a disease, not a diet … enough is enough.” This ignited a spark, adding to the flurry of advocates sharing their stories as comments on the brand’s Instagram post. In addition, Sung Poblete, PhD, RN, and CEO of FARE, reached out to Uber and spoke with them about removing the reference to peanut allergies from the ad.

Within two days, Uber agreed. FARE published a statement that read, “FARE would like to thank Uber for listening to our community and making the changes to their Super Bowl ad. After talking with them today, I believe we have a new ally in helping us navigate our journey with our disease.” 

There are two key lessons to learn from this experience. First, communications, marketing and advertising professionals must always be mindful of the tone their communications are setting. It is vitally important to think through how messages will be received by your audiences, both intended and unintended. Uber missed the mark on their first cut, but worked swiftly to right the wrong before game time. Second, advocacy can be a strong driver of change, especially when it has a clear, specific call to action. 

I applaud FARE for taking a stand, as well as the thousands of concerned citizens who raised their voices to point out the danger of making a serious medical condition into a punchline. The food allergy community came together quickly in order to make a difference with a call to action that made it very clear to Uber Eats that correcting the commercial well before kick-off was in everyone’s best interests. The edited commercial that finally aired might just be my favorite one from Sunday’s advertising lineup.

TAGS: Health

POSTED BY: Laura O’Neill

Laura O’Neill