Ad of the Day: A Baby Stands In for All Mankind in Airbnb’s Ambitious Global Spot

An adorable overreach

Airbnb really wants you to know the world is a wonderful place full of nice people. So, please get out of your own house, stay in someone else's for a while, and see how great it can be.

The vacation-rentals-by-owner business is out with a new global campaign from TBWA\Chiat\Day. In the 60-second centerpiece, directed by Lance Acord (of Volkswagen's "The Force" and Nike's "Jogger"), a baby does a perfect bowlegged baby walk toward a windowed door, as a voiceover questions the nature of mankind, and encourages viewers to go learn firsthand.

A generous reading might find the juxtaposition of image and copy incredibly arch and subtly genius, prompting viewers to admit we're all just a bunch of overgrown infants wobbling through life. A simpler, perhaps more accurate take finds it wildly pretentious—existential bordering on absurd, without ever turning the corner into comedy.

In fact, the company intends it to be provocative, a sort of antidote to news about "unkindness"—aka, all the horrible things people do to each other everywhere. That's an ambitious play that at its heart seems more like a growth strategy translated into pablum than a genuine, credible sentiment about humanity. Renting a home to a stranger isn't an act of kindness—it's a mutually beneficial transaction. And as much as Airbnb might want to gloss over the fact, it's an inherently risky one.

And it's understandable if you find lines like "Sleep in their beds, so you may know their dreams" to be a bit creepy, as the brand cuts the script down into tweet-sized bits.

This isn't to say the brand strategy is off. Leaning into optimism makes total sense for a business that does facilitate sharing, however mercenary. And the ad does deserves credit for hinting at the kind of childlike wonder that can come from travel (as more directly demonstrated in Wieden + Kennedy's Cannes Lion-winning spot for S7 Airlines).

The "Belong anywhere" tagline is also solid positioning for Airbnb's homey business model, offering a broader take on the spirit of acceptance that anchored its beautiful ad about LGBT couples last month. (This new campaign, by the way, will also include employee engagement, social media and billboards in "provocative locations that may either highlight the kindness of man, or call it into question." So, we'll have to see what that's all about.)

In the most narrow and literal interpretation, the new spot also seems to be appealing to people who travel with babies, which adds a whole additional set of safety considerations when booking.

Even if you're not in that niche, the whole thing is infinitely more fun to watch on mute, with "Uptown Funk" playing in the background.

CREDITS

Client: Airbnb

Creative Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day

Media Agency: Starcom

Creative

Chief Creative Officer: Stephen Butler

Creative Director: Brent Anderson

Creatives: Scott Brown, Becky Ginos

Writer: Sue Anderson

Design Director: Mark Sloan

Designers: Robbie Reynolds, Kevin Reid

Senior Project Manager: Michael Roitman

Planning

Group Planning Director: Neil Barrie

Planner: Kyle Bullerjahn

Strategy Intern: Farid Mozafari

Production

Production Directors: Brian O'Rourke, Peter Bassett

Digital Producer: Kristin McCarron

Executive Print Producers: Scott Henry, Dena Moore

Broadcast Producer: Stephanie Dziczek

Business Affairs Manager: Maryam Ohebsion

Studio Manager: Brian Dougherty

Senior Producers: David Hoogenakker, Tim Newfang

Art Producer: Karishma Singh

Senior Editor: Greg Young

Senior Post Producer: Cristy Torres

Account

President, International Clients: James Vincent 

Managing Director: Kelly Lee

Brand Director: Jenn Wong

Brand Manager: Matt Theisen