Skift Take

Expedia aims to expand its Vrbo business in 2023. The move to bring creative production in-house and shift the narrative could help, but deeper strategic shifts would be required to compete with Airbnb.

Vrbo released the first of three new ads this week focusing on customer service guarantees instead of the homes themselves.

The new campaign highlights how Vrbo looks after customers, where others fall short, through upfront pricing, 24/7 customer support, and booking protection. The ad tweaks its messaging from  “Whole Vacation Homes” to “Private Vacation Rentals.”

All ads were directed by documentary filmmakers ThirtyTwo and featured real families on vacation in properties booked on Vrbo.

The new ad, “Good Surprises,” released on April 26, shows a family of three enjoying a bucolic getaway. The video, edited in muted colors, communicates peace and calm. While the visuals are standard for a travel ad, the narration differs. Instead of solely singing the property’s praises, it emphasizes the ability to see the total cost of the reservation, including a breakdown of fees, before confirming a transaction. It’s a somewhat mundane message compared to more exciting options that describe the joy of travel, but provides a sense of security and trust that is missing in travel experiences today.

“When the Davises booked their family vacation home, they didn’t know about this view, the 200-year-old tree in their backyard, or their neighbors down the hill,” the script reads. “But one thing they did know was exactly how much they’d pay because Vrbo is different. You see the total price upfront. Of course, it’s good to leave room for surprises.”

Vrbo, an Expedia Group brand, shows the total price upfront, including the nightly rates and cleaning fees, but excludes the taxes. Airbnb does something similar.

A second ad produced in-house, titled “I Got You,” will be released on May 15, highlighting the company’s 24/7 customer support with a nod to a growing drive tourism trend.  A third and final ad, “Ce N’est Pas,” will be released in Q4, highlighting the company’s booking protection.

Vrbo’s previous TV spots, like the one released during the Super Bowl, focused on Vrbo’s homes, emphasizing its priority on private, whole homes. 

“We’ve always prioritized our guests, but now we’re putting them front and center in our advertising,” said Hector Muelas, senior vice president, Global Creative at Expedia Group. “As a pioneer in the industry, we’ve been taking care of families for a long time, and we think this long-standing commitment lends itself to this type of creative storytelling.” 

The campaign responds to growing consumer pushback against some of Airbnb’s more frustrating processes such as extensive to-do lists at checkout, and the heightened competition between the two popular platforms.

However, Vrbo isn’t the first lodging company to create a campaign that goes beyond the aesthetics of its homes. Plum Guide introduced a mortality themed campaign earlier this year by having grim reapers march around London with the message, “The end is nigh.”


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Tags: advertising, airbnb, future of lodging, marketing, vacation rentals, vrbo

Photo credit: Vrbo released the first of three new ads this week focusing on customer service guarantees instead of the homes themselves. Pictured is a screen grab from the first ad, Good Surprises. Source: Vrbo

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