"Dear SF Tax Collector,
You know the $12 million in hotel taxes?
Don't spend it all in one place.
"Dear Public Works,
Please use the $12 million in hotel taxes to build more bike lanes, like this one.
"Dear Board of Education,
Please use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep art in schools.
"Dear Public Library System,
We hope you use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep the library open later.
Those are some of the by now legendary and misguided ads by Airbnb that went up last week and came down just as quickly after the understandable public backlash. AdWeek reports the ads were from Airbnb's agency of record TBWA\Chiat\Day L.A. which is surprising as they've done some legendary campaigns in the past, especially for Apple, their one time prized client.
Still, Airbnb is the client, and the client has to sign off on all this. It's on them for approving this incredibly smug and tone deaf campaign. One of the serious challenges companies like Airbnb and Uber have to battle is regulatory capture, but they have so many consumers who love their services that they really only need to make it clear that government officials might take away their offerings to rally a formidable wave of public support.
And yet almost all the Airbnb ads I've seen come across as really odd and cult-like. It's already strange enough sleeping on someone's sofa, the last thing the public needs is to be reminded of it. If I were Airbnb I'd be doing everything possible to make the service seem normal and more smart relative to the alternatives. My suspicion: some creative director is trying to be too clever by half.