T-Mobile is giving customers one free Lyft ride in February, and the company’s Super Bowl announcement used a viral meme in the process.
A fake text message conversation between a Lyft driver and a T-Mobile user (seen below) is based on a meme from December 2017. The original photo — a screenshot of a faked text conversation between an Uber customer and a driver — quickly went viral, only for the creator of the photo to later announce the entire thing was made up as a joke. Lyft’s commercial relied on the same tone and comedy to make the announcement.
Twitter user @decentbirthday, which made the original viral tweet, said on Twitter it was licensed by Lyft for the Super Bowl. He even teased it before the big game.
Even T-Mobile CEO John Legere used language from the original tweet in his own announcement tweet, seen below.
T-Mobile and Lyft’s decision to license a popular tweet comes on the heels of other companies like Fuck Jerry apologizing to comedians and online creators for blatantly stealing content and profiting from it. Just yesterday, Fuck Jerry co-founder and creator of the popular Instagram account swore to stop taking content from people without proper credit and profiting off content that wasn’t theirs.
“In the past few years, I have made a concerted, proactive effort to properly credit creators for their work. We have also updated our policies to make sure we are responsive to creators whenever they have reached out to us about posts,” Tebele wrote in a post published to Medium this afternoon. “It hasn’t been a perfect system, but I do feel it was a significant improvement, as many of my peers have approached these issues in the same way. Given the conversations over the past few days, and the issues that have come to light, it is clear however, that we need to do better.”
Conversations about content on the internet — and how brands and companies market their own products by relying on user generated content — has swiftly changed in the past few years. T-Mobile’s decision to license a meme and turn it into a marketing strategy is another example of how things are changing.
Correction (February 3, 9:14 pm ET): The story has been corrected and update to note that the original tweet was licensed.