HomeAway Invests ‘Tens of Millions of Dollars’ in Global Campaign

New CMO wants to appeal to modern families, pet owners and millennials

HomeAway last summer hired its first global chief marketing officer in Mariano Dima, who had served in the same role for Visa Europe, and promised to increase ad spending worldwide by 50 percent. At the time, the home rental brand ultimately sent this proclamation to every hospitality competitor from Bookings.com to Airbnb: We're serious now. 

Today, HomeAway is unveiling the first sign that it wasn't kidding around with an international campaign, which Dima told Adweek would total in the "tens of millions of dollars." Digital ads and retargeted promos will start being seen across the Web in early March while pushing its "no booking fees" message, a sentiment that is designed to resonate with Airbnb users. Television ads in seven major American markets (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc.) and a handful of European countries will begin airing on March 16. The initiative will also involve out-of-home and print ads.

The creative reflects "a modern family feel," Dima said. Like ABC's hit show Modern Family that he loosely referenced, the images entail families led by straight and gay parents of varying ethnicities. Yet HomeAway aims to extend the "family" concept to include groups of friends—an idea the brand's marketers believe will hit home with social media-happy Gen Y. 

"The goal is to connect with these influencers and bring them together," remarked Katrien De Bauw, chief operating officer of Saatchi & Saatchi London, the campaign's lead agency.

One of the 30-second TV commercials will feature a girl character, Emma, who goes on vacation with her family—though she misses their dog, Biscuit, who remained at home because they are staying in a hotel instead of a house. A complementary spot highlights Biscuit's perspective as he goes on a journey and successfully finds Emma.

"They leave the dog behind, but she feels the family is not complete," Dima explained. "It's not about the dog or the girl, but how people feel 'complete.' And how they feel with house they can actually rent without leaving anyone behind."

The campaign is dubbed "The whole house. The whole family. A whole vacation." In addition to Saatchi & Saatchi, Landor (Paris and New York) helped develop the appeal, while ZenithOptimedia handled media planning and buying. 

Additionally, a #WholeVacation social media component is expected to roll out in the coming weeks, as is an effort led by rapper and activist Prince Ea, well-known for viral hits "Can We Autocorrect Humanity" and "Why I Think the World Should End." He'll create digital videos around a "whole versus half vacation" theme and share it with his millions of Facebook and YouTube fans.

In brand-sponsored music videos, Prince Ea will also pontificate about an emerging societal trend of folks leaving paid vacation time on the table as well as the fact that families today often spend more time with technology than with each other.

"We are connected but not really connecting," Dima added. 

With the big investment the new CMO is putting forth to globalize his brand's message, he can only hope to connect with consumers plenty.