Uber and Lyft botch $8.6 million campaign, suspend service in Austin

8937656c-d301-489e-8fea-388794af20a1-large16x9_austinUber and Lyft just lost an $8.6 million game of public affairs.

In a case billed as Silicon Valley money versus Texas public servants, the two giant rideshare companies have suspended service in Austin after voters turned down Proposition 1 on Saturday, bringing to a stunning conclusion the most expensive campaign in the city’s history.

So, why did Proposition 1 fail? Lyft and Uber totally botched the campaign.

The rideshare companies used bullying tactics, a threatening tone, and aggressive advertising to promote their agenda. Needless to say, Austin residents weren’t receptive to the way the message was communicated.

Uber and Lyft, through their five commercials repeated hundreds of times on Austin airwaves, Facebook and print ads, robocalls and robotexts and scads of carpet-bombed mailers, effectively turned off Austin voters.

The lack of the campaign’s transparency was also a large issue for Austin voters.

Ridesharing Works for Austin, the political action committee leading the campaign in favor of Proposition 1, underwritten by ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft, hired former Austin mayor Lee Leffingwell to spearhead the campaign. Additionally, Lyft enlisted Texas’ favorite fictional son, Friday Night Lights star Taylor Kitsch, as a spokesperson.

The overwhelming sentiment from Austin residents was that they didn’t like that ridesharing companies were trying to “buy the election” and essentially rewrite the city ordinance governing background checks for drivers.

The final nail in the coffin for the campaign happened when both companies threatened to leave Austin if their preferred ridesharing regulations were voted down.

“Most of the people I’ve talked to who voted against Prop 1 weren’t concerned about fingerprinting; they were annoyed or offended by Lyft’s and Uber’s tactics,” said Joshua Baer, founder and executive director of Capital Factory.

The two leaders of the booming ridesharing industry halted service in Austin on Monday. The ridesharing companies’ future in Austin is unclear at this time, but this much is certain: Lyft and Uber wasted their money. Threats are not a good communications tactic, and didn’t work in Austin.

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