ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The popular ride-hailing service Careem has apologized to its users in Pakistan after its election-themed campaign backfired terribly.
The company had launched a promotion to tap into election fever, using puns on political slogans and jokey promo codes. The company was sure it would only attract laughs, but almost immediately after kickstarting the campaign, it found itself under fire from angry party workers.
Take a quick look: Pakistan launches two satellites
A hashtag calling on users to #BoycottCareemPakistan quickly followed, with users saying they would uninstall the app and turn to the firm’s archrival, Uber.
“Looks like Christmas came early for Uber in Pakistan. Careem Pak app being deleted for obnoxious political advertising,” tweeted prominent journalist Gul Bukhari on Twitter.
The campaign co-opted political slogans from the three main parties alongside mocking promo codes apparently for users to gain discounts.
One promo code, “10percent”, referred to the long-standing nickname of Asif Ali Zardari. The former president and current chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party gained the moniker following allegations that he took personal commission on state contracts. He has long denied corruption.
Other promo codes took aim at Imran Khan’s PTI party and at Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League.
It was quickly clear that many had taken offence.
Take a quick look: Pakistan world’s 22nd most powerful country
One user identified only as Faisee said: “I demand you apologise for your hateful campaigns, slogans and retract all those demeaning slogans; otherwise I have no option but to #BoycottCareemPakistan for the respect of my stand out and my political views.”
A statement from Careem said: “We sincerely apologise for hurting your sentiments. Careem is politically neutral and our election taglines covered all popular political slogans. Our singular aim is to get everyone to the polling stations.”
We sincerely apologise for hurting your sentiments. Careem is politically neutral and our election taglines covered all popular political slogans. Our singular aim is to get everyone to the polling stations. #CareemForDemocracy pic.twitter.com/VoDMhbLM8q
— Careem Pakistan (@CareemPAK) July 9, 2018