How Uber will become an ad company

Uber Eats recently began offering restaurants in India bonus visibility in a Specials section if they’d offer discounts on meal bundles to Uber’s customers. Knock some rupees off the price of a sandwich, fries and a drink, and a restaurant wins itself some enhanced discoverability.

Where there is discovery in an app, there is paid discovery. Google helped you choose between links, then sold ads that promote a few. Facebook helped you choose between pieces of content, then sold ads that promote a few. And eventually, as Uber helps you choose between restaurants, it will sell ads that promote a few. It could become the marketing platform through which the physical world vies for your attention.

Uber’s senior director and head of Eats product Stephen Chau has confirmed to me the company’s intentions to become an ad company. “There’s a bunch of different ways we can work with restaurants over time. If we have all the restaurants on the marketplace and we give them tools to help them grow, then this will be a very efficient marketplace. They’re going to be spending those ad dollars somewhere,” Chau tells me. “One of the things we’ve been experimenting with is allowing retailers to create promotions themselves and show them within the product.”

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