Skift Take

Airbnb has emerged as the leader in travel product. Now it's horning into travel creative, as well.

Each June advertising executives from around the world descend on the south of France for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the most coveted creative awards in the industry.

This year, over 40,000 submissions were entered into competition in 23 different categories. Travel brands haven’t traditionally had a strong presence at the awards, but with big moves such as Airbnb hiring Jonathan Mildenhall from Coke, we’ll going too see a new standard of creative work.

Editor’s Note: Skift asked Tourism Australia’s Jesse Desjardins, who was on hand to promote the destination marketing organization’s entry to the program (see below), to share his responses to the travel brand entries at this year’s event. He is of course biased, but Australia’s winning campaign speaks for itself.

The Swedish Number – Swedish Tourist Association

“The first country in the world with its own phone number. Get connection to a random Swede and talk about anything.”

In 2012 Visit Sweden took home the Cyber Grand Prix for handing off the country’s official twitter handle, @Sweden, to regular Swedes. While this campaign had its fair share of controversy at the time Visit Sweden was convinced that transparency was ultimately a good thing. To celebrate the 250th anniversary of the abolishment of censorship — the first country in the world to do so — it once again build on their 2012 strategy by becoming the first country to have it’s very own telephone number.

Creativity coming from the community was a major theme of the festival this year, Mark D’Arcy, Chief Creative Officer of Facebook said “as creative leaders we have to become more comfortable with ideas that don’t come from within.” As of April the campaign had generated over 128,000 calls from 178 countries, with a far greater reach and engagement with its audience than any piece of content that could of been produced by the organization.

Agency: INGO Stockholm
Country: Sweden

Van Gogh BNB – Art Institute of Chicago


When the Art Institute of Chicago wanted to promote its temporary exhibition ‘Van Gogh’s Bedrooms’ and build its reputation as an internationally acclaimed art museum they looked for an idea that would offer an intimate look into Vincent Van Gogh’s most personal space. So, to promote it they took his most intimate painting, “The Bedroom,” and brought it to life and listed the room on Airbnb, with Vincent as the host, and invited the world to spend a night.

All nights in the room sold out within minutes. Exhibition online tickets pre-sale were up 250% and more than 200,000 people attended in just six weeks. The room cost $31k to build and generated more than $6M in earned media. Airbnb’s CMO Jonathan Mildenhall said that three of their biggest PR opportunities this year had come from the community. While Van Gogh bnb didn’t come from Airbnb the organisation was quick to capitalise of the momentum with co-founder Brian Chesky launching Airbnb’s ‘Night At’ platform saying “What we want to do is turn this into a platform, and we want to invite any creative or brand to create something like the Van Gogh piece.”

Agency: Leo Burnett Chicago
Country: USA

Giga Selfie – Tourism Australia

“Australia, the land of giga, where everything is gigantic”

Selfies are part of the social zeitgeist, and no more so than in the Japan, one of Australia’s key inbound travel markets. The challenge with selfies in Australia is that it’s almost impossible to ‘fit it’ the country’s vast natural landscapes. So Tourism Australia created the world’s largest selfie service. Using Synthesis technology combining the vastness of the landscape along with the visitors smile in one giant selfie. The user taps a shutter button on a mobile site, the Giga Selfie system combines hundreds of images taken into 1 giga pic and in less than 2min a Giga Selfie is delivered to the user.

The result was not just a campaign that was massively successful in Japan, but a scalable idea for the organisation that generated coverage around the world. Mobile jury President Malcolm Poynton, Global Chief Creative Officer of Cheil Worldwide said the campaign was awarded a Gold in Mobile because it showed that brands were “starting to think of mobile beyond the screen in people’s hands.”

Country: Japan

#COMEONIN – Sydney Opera House

“Inside is where it all happens”

Another big win for Australia was The Sydney Opera House, one of Australia’s most instagrammed icons. The challenge is that only 1% who take its photo ever go inside. So the famous house invited people to #comeonin. Custom software selected photos containing the iconic sails. Then a mobile response team filmed personalised video invites and posts them back to instagram, inviting people to #comeonin for money-can’t buy experiences inside.

A brand responding to users on platforms like Instagram is nothing new, but the #comeonin campaign was a brilliantly integrated effort across many areas within the house to remind the public that there was so much happening inside.

Agency: DDB Sydney
Country: Australia

Don’t Go There. Live There – Airbnb

The community has clearly become Airbnb’s product. Co-Founder Brian Chesky said that Airbnb’s future was not just being a place to sleep but a place where people are exposed to a whole new community. The winning creative work showcased this across a wide range of categories from print all to film making Airbnb one of the most awarded brands at Cannes this year.

Chesky said “I don’t think Airbnb is about providing a place for people to sleep, I think that we’re supplying the means to connect people. Homes is where it is starting, but I think going forward we want to look at that end to end journey,” also adding that “the travel industry is one of the most challenged industries in the world.”

Agency: TBWA\CHIAT\DAY Los Angeles
Country: USA

Note: Desjardins heads social and content at Tourism Australia in Sydney. Giga Selfie marks the first win at Cannes for the organization.


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Tags: airbnb, sweden, tourism australia

Photo credit: A print ad component to Airbnb's "Don’t Go There. Live There" campaign. Airbnb

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