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Airbnb Poaches Coke Exec for Its New Chief Marketing Officer

May 06, 2014 1:25 pm

Skift Take

As Airbnb tries to transition from upstart to establishment, it is moving to attract more experienced talent to its leadership team. We’re wondering who’s next.

— Jason Clampet

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Jonathan Mildenhall is leaving Coca-Cola to become Airbnb’s CMO.

Mr. Mildenhall will take over for Amy Curtis-McIntyre — a seasoned top marketer with stints at Old Navy, JetBlue and Hyatt — as chief marketer at the startup, which created a global marketplace for people to rent out rooms, apartments and houses.

Ms. Curtis-McIntrye joined the company in March 2013 and is leaving on June 1 to “travel with her family and explore one of her true passions, writing,” according to a statement from Airbnb. Neither Ms. Curtis-McIntyre, nor Mr. Mildenhall were available for comment.

He joins Airbnb at a time when it’s ramping up its marketing and its global footprint. Under Ms. Curtis-McIntyre’s leadership, the San Francisco-based company tapped Pereira & O’Dell as its agency of record last July.

Brand awareness has become more of an imperative for the company, which was founded in 2008. Prior to last year, the company’s marketing efforts had mainly been in the realm of direct response, such as search and Facebook ads aimed at people who are likely candidates to visit a given destination.

Airbnb also pushed into TV advertising for the first time in September with a four-and-a-half-minute short film made up of user-submitted Vines that ran onSundance ChannelMullen was the agency behind that ad.

Privately-held Airbnb hasn’t disclosed its marketing budget, but it’s safe to assume that it’s at a completely different scale than Coca-Cola. According to Kantar Media, the brand spent just $300,000 on measured media last year. As of last October, Ms. Curtis-McIntyre had about 20 people reporting to her in the marketing organization. Airbnb declined to provide an update on that number.

Coke Shakeup

The news comes on the heels of a marketing shakeup at Coca-Cola. The company announced Wendy Clark would take on the role of president-sparkling and strategic marketing, Coca-Cola North America, effective June 1. Meanwhile, Katie Bayne, who had been president-North America Brands and is the former CMO of Coca-Cola North America, is taking on the job vacated by Ms. Clark, senior VP-global sparkling brand center.

Ms. Clark will need to shore up the creative ranks. In addition to Mr. Mildenhall, top North American marketers Pio Schunker and Alison Lewis have left in the last year.

Most recently, Mr. Mildenhall, who was named to Ad Age’sCreativity 50 in 2012, was senior VP integrated marketing communication and design excellence for Coca-Cola North America. Prior to that role, he had served the company in a global marketing role since 2007. A Coca-Cola spokesman said, “Jonathan left for professional and personal reasons, and we wish him well in his new endeavor.”

Mr. Mildenhall joined Coca-Cola from the agency world, where he held a variety of roles at agencies in the U.K. He served as head of strategy at Mother, in addition to account management roles at TBWA, HHCL, DLKW Lowe and Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

Airbnb earns money by charging 6% to 12% fees on guest bookings and 3% of what people make from renting out their homes. It raised $450 million at a $10 billion valuation last month. That brings the six-year-old startup’s total funding to $776.4 million, according to CrunchBase.

While Airbnb is looking to brand marketing to grow positive awareness, it’s also increasingly needing to play defense via its public policy team as it faces regulation in big cities that could make its service illegal. For example, in its home city of San Francisco, there’s a ballot initiative being prepared that would limit temporary rentals to neighborhoods with commercial zoning.

adage_200x200This story originally appeared on AdAge, a Skift content partner.

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