Monday, July 9, 2018

Moving Backward

Have you seen the new charm offensive from the good folks at Uber?

I'm sure you have because they've gone decidedly old school with it and plastered the airwaves with big production TV commercials -- remember those?

This isn't going to be some chincy, online banner effort. Hell no. Uber wants you to know they're moving forward. And they want you to know their new tagline is Moving Forward.

I caught myself pondering all this. Why? Well, not because it was a slow day in the news. We don't have those anymore. But because it all seemed so familiar. And unsettling. Like a taste I knew but couldn't identify. Like the fragrance of a perfume an old girlfriend used to wear. Or was it my mother? I mentioned it was unsettling, didn't I?

I repeated the phrase over and over.

And then it struck me.

Uber's new tagline seemed familiar and well worn because Uber's new tagline was once Toyota's.

And I know this from years of experience, working on Corolla ads, Camry ads and the ubiquitous Toyotathon ads. By the way, there's a Toyotathon going on right now and you better visit your local Toyota dealer now because the savings and these amazing deals won't last.

(Editorial note: Please excuse me. My hands took over and involuntarily typed that urgent CTA. I had nothing to do with it. It was simply misguided muscle memory.)

Back in 2013 Toyota abandoned the Moving Forward platitude and went for something more declarative and robust, Let's Go Places.

All of which gives me a natural springboard to bitch about what all copywriters bitch about: taglines.

They suck.

Because more often than not they're poorly written word salads that mean nothing. Or look good on a coffee mug. Or fit nicely on a T-shirt handed out at a moral building corporate retreat.

These days, taglines come in the one word or the very fashionable two word variety. And instead of reflecting the core DNA of the company, they tend to espouse some bullshit zeitgeist conjured up by planners, all reading off the same research material. Giving us the standard tropes about Empowering, Progress, Future, Together, Innovating and then, even more Empowering.

The contrarian in me says taglines should be long. Excessively long. And repeated until they become memorable.

Most industries can't hold up one company with a great tagline. The overnight delivery business has two.

When it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.


We run the tightest ship in the shipping business.

Point is, if Uber can't come up with an original tagline, one that states who they are, what they do or even what they believe in, in a distinctive ownable way, maybe they shouldn't run a tagline at all. That's perfectly acceptable.

My other point is...

They suck.

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