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Lyft's new ad campaign shows drivers escaping the hellish circus of traffic

The company continues to present itself as the quirky alternative to Uber

Lyft has begun a massive national marketing campaign in recent weeks, spending heavily on discounted rides, billboards, and street teams armed with promotions and pink mustaches. Today it debuted the first look at its television ad campaign, a spot that will run in 19 major markets across the US with the slogan "Riding is the new driving." In keeping with its light-hearted vibe, the one-minute message depicts the nightmare of driving in traffic as a fantastical circus worthy of a Fellini film.

This whimsical approach to attracting customers is quite different from the tactics playing out on the ground, where Uber and Lyft — the two largest ride sharing services in the US— have been fighting a price war against each other. Lyft has found allies in GM, which invested in the ride-sharing service, and a trio of international players: China's Didi Kuaidi, India's Ola, and Southeast Asia's Grab. Those partnerships allow these services to work interchangeably, giving their customers rides on demand internationally. The coalition forming behind Lyft is seen as a hedge against Uber, which has pushed forward with a massive global expansion of its own.

Can heavy spending on ads help Lyft catch Uber?

Some recent reports have indicated Lyft may be gaining ground on Uber, but it's tough to tell how accurate the data is. Lyft claims to have over 40 percent of the market in Los Angeles, Austin, and San Francisco, but that data is self-reported. Uber, pointing to third-party credit card data, says it handles over 60 percent of the market in San Francisco and and Austin, and more than 70 percent in Los Angeles. Combined, the two companies now lay claim to 125 percent of the market in Los Angeles, a good sign someone is being too aggressive with their estimates.