The newest Airbnb ad, which you can view at Airbnb.com and is currently being played on national TV (you can watch it below), is exactly one minute long and
warns instructs us to do many things when we travel.
Let's break it all down:
0:01-0:09—Daytime. The Eiffel Tower in the background, a selfie stick in the foreground, a haughty voiceover advises thus: "Don't go to Paris. Don't tour Paris. And please don't do Paris." The first nine seconds ends with what appear to be tourists wearing helmets and passing by the Arc de Triomphe on Segways. Oh mon dieu!
That Airbnb even chose to open the ad in Paris drips with irony. You may recall that the City of Light has come down hard on Airbnb, even raiding certain neighborhoods to crack down on unscrupulous landlords. Let's move on.
0:12-0:25—Now the tone switches as a red door swings open and a beguiling young man invites in a similarly young lady, who we can only assume has booked the space using the home-sharing site. Our supercilious voiceover kicks back in: "Live in Paris," it solicitously intones. "When you Airbnb in Paris, you have your own home." A montage of fun homey things then swoops across the screen: horsing around on a couch (a couple), pitching a fort in the center of the living room (a family), making breakfast (two men), taking a snooze on the couch (one man). "Stuff you normally do," our trusty voiceover reminds us.
0:27-0:31—Ok, we are now out of Paris. Au revoir! And our pompous voiceover is back again, and she is admonishing us as city scenes flash by: "Don't go to L.A." (tourists atop a bus on Hollywood Blvd.); "Don't go to New York" (tourists in Times Square); "Don't go to Tokyo" (tourists at an nondescript place).
0:32-0:39—Now we are back to being told how to travel, with the voiceover imploring us to "LIVE" in those destinations: "Live in Malibu, Live in the East Village, Live in Shinagawa." The screen shows us more people, doing things people do in life.
0:40-0:50—The next 10 seconds we are told to do "Our regular routine," while a host of images look to support the claim (one of which is a white man getting into a steaming hot tub with four Asian men, another riding a camel, both of which I would not call part of anyone's regular routine).
0:51-1:00—We are toward the end now, and with symmetry that would impress even Billy Wilder, we are back at the Eiffel Tower, only it's now nighttime and we are seeing it through a window. Now, the payoff: "Wherever you go, don't go there: Live there. Even if it's just for a night." And scene.
You have to give it to Airbnb: they know how to talk to today's travelers. And they know how to offset their biggest competitors: hotels. It's that last line that really hits home on that point: "Even if it's just for a night." They are going after that short-stay transient or corporate traveler, who is only traveling for a night or two—not weeks at a time.
The sharing economy has no problem sharing how it thinks travelers should be traveling. Does the hotel industry have the temerity to do the same?