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Clowns, airbags, and a zebra: Lyft’s debut TV ad demands your attention

“Riding is the new driving,” Lyft proclaims at the end of its debut TV ad. The 60-second spot’s playful nuttiness means it’ll have little trouble catching viewers’ attention, though whether it persuades vehicle owners to leave their motor at home and hail a Lyft car instead remains to be seen.

The ad, which hit screens across the nation Monday night, starts off weird, and then gets weirder. Slow-moving traffic becomes a jam, which then somehow transforms into a massive mangled mountain of crashed cars. Clowns appear, as does a zebra and a giraffe. Collisions, synchronized air bag inflation, and spilt cups of tea also feature. It’s like your worst and wackiest drive home from work. And then some.

Lyft wants you to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. As the drivers and cops deal with the carnage, a young woman emerges from her trapped car, climbs atop the pile-up, pulls out her smartphone, and hails a Lyft car.

And along it comes, complete with smiling driver and pink mustache. The rider jumps in the car and is whisked away from the continuing chaos.

Related: Is Lyft too nice for its own good?

Lyft’s TV ad is part of a determined effort to raise awareness of a company that for so long has existed in the shadow of ride-hailing’s top player, Uber. Other initiatives include the launch this week of a nationwide poster campaign, with four eye-catching designs (below) set for display on billboards, bus shelters, and public transportation.

lyft poster campaign apr2016