We can learn what not to do by studying the advertising blunders of others, especially the big players in business.  In October 2015, AirBnB implemented an advertising campaign around hotel taxes throughout San Francisco.

“The ads implied that many city services, from libraries to parking enforcement, should be grateful to Airbnb due to the hotel taxes the company contributes to city coffers. Read one bus stop ad: “Dear Public Library System: We hope you use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep the library open later. Love, Airbnb.”” (della Cava, 2015)

San Francisco is experiencing a housing shortage and a large number of units that are listed as short term available rentals through businesses such as Air BnB are actually vacation rentals which until recently were banned in San Francisco.  The new law requires that registered “inns” then pay a hotel tax to the city.

“A new law enacted on Feb. 1 legalized such rentals, with conditions: hosts must be full-time residents, whole-property rentals are capped at 90 days a year, and all hosts must register with the city.” (Said, 20150)

In a New York Times article, Airbnb Ads Flop in San Francisco they elaborate on the intention of attempting to reach the millennial audience by having a voice that is beyond just the marketing of the product.

“Upstart companies like Uber and Airbnb are most likely also inserting themselves into social and political issues to appeal to younger consumers, who want their brands to stand for more than their products, said Allen Adamson, a brand expert and the former chairman for North America of Landor Associates, a global brand company. “More and more today, brands need to speak out well beyond the product that they’re selling,” Mr. Adamson said. “But by definition, you’re going to become more polarizing because you can’t make everybody happy all of the time.””

It was also suggested that a number of AirBnB hosts, the multiple property hosts that actually don’t live in the properties, were acting in a way to get around rent control laws.  Lack of understanding by Air BnB to the sensitive nature of the disparity in housing availability for the lower income population of the area played a big factor in the backlash to the ads.  Air BnB later apologized for the ads and quickly had them removed.

 

Resources:

della Cava, M. (2015, October 22).Airbnb apologizes for snarky San Francisco ads. USA TODAY.
Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/10/22/airbnb-apologizes-snarky-sf-ads/74398982/

Ember, S. & Isaac, M. (2015, October 22). Airbnb Ads Flop in San Francisco. New York Times.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/23/business/media/airbnb-ads-flop-in-san-francisco.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0

Said, C. (2015, July). The Airbnb effect: At least 350 entire homes listed on Airbnb appear to be full-time vacation rentals, bolstering claims by activists that the service removes scarce housing from the city’s limited inventory. San Francisco Chronicle.
Retrieved from http://www.sfchronicle.com/airbnb-impact-san-francisco-2015/#1