Airbnb is looking for a new global ad agency, splitting from TBWA after three years.
Like many such disruptors Airbnb, despite its vast valuation at $10bn or so, is facing some problems it probably never imagined, such as the supposed ability of terrorists and criminals to lose themselves in its global network of properties.
The massive financial success of such companies, as with Amazon, Facebook, Google and Uber has also become a big PR problem. The geeks who invented them are mostly rich beyond the dreams of avarice although Facebook and Google spread it around rather more freely than Amazon and Uber.
Airbnb’s high profile CMO Jonathan Mildenhall (formerly of Coca-Cola and, before that, Mother) appointed TBWA shortly after joining. Now he says: “As a global hospitality company at a pivotal moment in our trajectory, we are seeking a partner agency that takes us closer to unlocking the creativity of our community, in which content and product are inextricably linked. We are engaged in a global pitch, inviting the participation of a handful of diverse agencies to identify this new partner that will help us achieve our next phase of phenomenal growth.”
Quite how you unlock the creativity of a large number of, presumably, diverse people who stay in your properties is anyone’s guess, which may be why TBWA has pulled out. Airbnb doesn’t actually spend that much, about $65m in its biggest market the US.
As with most of these web-based behemoths you suspect advertising is used more for PR purposes than driving sales; Apple being the exception.
Airbnb’s last major ad was this in-house effort, an attempt to counter suggestions that some would-be users were discriminated against.