Strother Nuckels Strategies Tugs At Heartstrings for Airbnb; Share Better Coalition Is Unimpressed

By Erik Oster 

Strother Nuckels Strategies launched a new campaign for Airbnb making an emotional appeal to viewers via interviews with Airbnb hosts who have gotten through tough times thanks to the home sharing service.

In “Meet Kevin and Esther of the Outer Sunset,” for example, Kevin explains that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2013. Since then, he and his family have used income from Airbnb to help pay their mortgage and Kevin’s hospital bills, as well as saving for college tuition for their children. Near the end of the spot, the message, “77% of Airbnb hosts in San Francisco say they use money they earn to help pay their rent or mortgage” appears onscreen. 

It’s not only San Francisco that gets the spotlight, though. In “Meet Dreama of Carrollton,” a woman explains that income from Airbnb helped keep her and her family in their house during a period of unemployment. Other spots feature Airbnb hosts from Vancouver, Los Angeles and New York. The campaign will run in broadcast, radio spots, pre-roll and banner ads in those locations through November. 

“The hosts telling their stories directly is really powerful; it’s showing people the real faces of Airbnb,” Ben Nuckles, Strother Nuckels Strategies partner at Strother Nuckels Strategies told Campaign. “None of these are scripted…We really wanted it to be an authentic story as told by the hosts.”

As individual stories the simple spots work to highlight the human connection of the service but there’s also a further implication that Airbnb benefits middle class families. That message is in stark contrast to a campaign launched last summer by lobbying group the Share Better Coalition, which criticized Airbnb, claiming in one ad that forty percent of Airbnb revenue in New York went to real estate moguls. The response by Airbnb, via this campaign, highlights how the company is helping middle class families, while side-stepping the specific real estate mogul criticism made by Share Better New York. It avoids the kind of controversy generated by TBWA’s OOH campaign against Proposition F in San Francisco, which would have required Airbnb to essentially be classified as a hotel chain, an effort that Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said “embarrassed” the company


That didn’t stop the Share Better Coalition from firing back, though. In response it launched its own “Dear Airbnb” campaign, featuring messages accusing the service of “making millions from unregistered rental listings” and asking the company to abide by laws that “exist to protect us all.”
Rather than creating petty misleading advertisements, we invite Share Better and their hotel industry backers to join us in working with city policymakers who agree the current registration system is broken,” an Airbnb spokesperson wrote in a statement. “We are ready, able and willing to work with city officials to find real solutions that protect housing and enable middle class residents to share their homes, but 400 percent increases in permit fees, taxes on silverware and an application process that can take months to complete all need to be fixed.”

Share Better New York and Share Better San Francisco both plan to release additional campaigns this year.