Uber’s controversy-free run has been shattered by allegations that chief operating officer Barney Harford made inappropriate remarks about an ad for the company featuring an interracial couple.
Harford was drafted in last year as part of a wave of new blood intended to draw a line under a series of scandals which threatened to undermine the ride-hailing business but has now pledged to submit himself to coaching in order to erase his "blind spots".
The New York Times reports that the latest incident stemmed from an internal critique of an Uber ad depicting an interracial couple, which colleagues claim prompted Harford to question how common such a pairing was among audiences.
Several Uber employees present during the meeting contend, off the record owing to a non-disclosure agreement, that Harford voiced difficulty in distinguishing between two black women in the ad because they had similar hairstyles.
In a statement Harford commented: “I am humbled and grateful for the feedback I received, which has been eye-opening. Honest feedback given in good faith is something we need more of, and I’m totally committed to acting on it and improving.”
Uber has been left without a top marketer following the recent departure of Bozoma Saint John, who previously vowed to be more transparent about what steps the ride-hailing service was taking to improve its workplace culture after a series of controversies.
Of late, the company has also splashed around $10m on apology advertising for its prior bad behaviour, with freshly-instilled chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi pledging to drive Uber in a 'new direction'.