The Annual: Good marketers must make ‘big bold bets’

Uber director of marketing Steve Brennen
By Uber director of marketing Steve Brennen | 1 March 2019

This first appeared in the AdNews Annual 2018. 
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As part of the AdNews Annual 2018, celebrating 90 years of AdNews, we featured a range of perspectives from brands, leaders and top marketers, and asked them to share what creativity means to them and how important it is. We also asked some to throw in a future–gazing thought or two on how advertising could shape out in the next 90 years.

Uber was founded in 2009 in San Francisco and launched in Australia in 2012. It has about 600 staff across Australia and New Zealand. We hear from Uber director of marketing Steve Brennen:

At the core, creativity is a mechanism that drives emotion. We look to creativity as a way to break through to consumers and connect with them on an emotional level.

Uber is known for disruption. One of the challenges that comes with that privilege is ensuring we do not become disrupted ourselves. The product we offer is replicable, but the emotional connection that people have with Uber is not.

uber screen

This first appeared in AdNews in-print

The attachment that Uber riders and eaters have with us is held together by our creativity. Customers respect and trust great brands that connect with them on an emotional level through creativity. Human connection to brands is going to be increasingly more important as technology continues to mature.

As a tech company, we believe in blurring online and offline experiences together. It’s important to us to have a physical presence and build on the emotional connection we have with our customers. Our early days saw a variety of activations and stunts that got us a lot of attention, but our focus now has been evolving and building on that.

Creative people and good marketers need to be able to make ‘big bold bets’ — we encourage our teams to do exactly that. With these bold initiatives, we know that some may fail, but we have the belief that failure makes us smarter and sharper, so we commit to doing it anyway. It’s within Uber’s DNA to make these bets to challenge ourselves and our own thinking. The way we approach creativity is no different.

In 2019, marketers will focus on the next iteration of big data. We already have powerful, proprietary machine learning platforms that are able to synthesise massive amounts of information to customer recommendations. In the future, we’ll see data play a more integral role in our creative.

The world 90 years from now is going to be dramatically different from today. Even 10 years ago, the concept of getting a ride on–demand was novel and now it has become ingrained in our daily lives.

On–demand aviation, like our Uber Elevate program, will radically improve urban mobility. You can only imagine the positive impact this would have for Australians, but it will bring new challenges in the connection users have with our products and will challenge our creativity in ways we can’t yet consider.

We know that trust is critical to the long–term success of Uber’s business and we know that trust starts with a strong relationship. We will continue to focus on connecting with our customers through creative ideas that help to grow our business sustainably and win the trust of customers.


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From Vegemite, Bonds and Stan to Uber, Telstra, Aeroplane Jelly and Tourism Australia, to see all Perspectives from The Annual, get your in-print copy of the Annual here and keep an eye on AdNews for the whole collection.

See more Annual Perspectives from these people below:

Vegemite marketing manager Matt Gray

Victoria Bitter senior marketing and sponsorship manager Hugh Jellie  

Telstra marketing executive and chief brand officer Jeremy Nicholas

Stan head of brand Diana Ilinkovski

McCormick Foods Australia (Aeroplane Jelly parent company) managing director of commercial Paris Golden.

Tourism Australia CMO Lisa Ronson

Big Red Group co-founder and CMO Naomi Simson

Clemenger executive chairman Rob Morgan

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