Playing the cards of charity and cute animals in the name of viral marketing and good PR, Uber teamed up with six animal shelters across major cities in Australia today to offer its UberKITTENS service.
Uber was issued with a cease-and-desist notice by the Queensland Government in May, with the government citing safety reasons in light of the ridesharing app conducting its own series of vetting processes.
Announced by Uber as "possibly the cutest day in Uber history", the company made a plea to "offices, your sweetheart and cat ladies" in a statement released to the public immediately before sending the initiative live.
Purchasers paid a minimum fee of $40 for the service, which ran for four hours, and was socially trending as #UberKittens in prime position for much longer.
"We've done this twice in the US to huge, huge success and had lots of interest from shelters to run the same initiative over here," says Katie Curran, communications lead for Australia and New Zealand at Uber.
"All proceeds go towards fundraising and straight into the shelters, and then Uber is also donating an extra $10,000 to these shelters collectively.
"The drivers still get paid and are all compensated, but the money being paid to us goes straight back to the shelter."
Curran says animal welfare is "paramount" across journeys, which involve two to four animals on each trip accompanied by trained representatives. She says the animal is taken back to the shelter if showing any signs of fatigue, sickness or distress.
Asked whether the four Brisbane and three Gold Coast Uber drivers on operation UberKITTENS put pressure on the Uber server and caused a price hike which is said to be automated in periods of high demand Curran says this was avoided due to cars being strictly part of the promotion.
Businesses across Brisbane and the Gold Coast took time out of their day to de-stress and support the service, evidenced across Twitter.
On the same thread, mUmbrella deputy editor Nic Christenson questioned whether "anyone not in the media had actually been able to order UberKITTENS", a quip directed at Uber's attention-grabbing tactics.
Brisbane Business News spoke to a spokesperson from local advertising and communications agency, BCM, whose office enjoyed trialling the service.
"Uber must be doing something right if they are delivering kittens," they said, adding that they hadn't used Uber before but colleagues had.
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