Skift Take

Vrbo can pick its spots to compete with Airbnb. But it's not a zero-sum game and parent company Expedia has no expectation of "beating" Airbnb.

Vrbo took some not-so-veiled shots at the quality of properties one might get from Airbnb in two commercials that ran in the pre-game and NFL divisional championship games Sunday.

The advertisements, Relax/Rooster and Relax/Spaceship, are part of a Vrbo multimedia campaign that includes out of home, digital and social media advertising, a spokesperson said. Expedia Group, Vrbo’s parent company, wouldn’t share how much money was allocated to the campaign.

In the Rooster commercial, guests arrive to a farmhouse and one says, “This looks like an actual farm.” The guests find a small trailer on the property with a pig snorting on the bed. In the main house, there are roosters wildly moving around.

The scene then changes to a spacious Vrbo vacation rental, where a group of guests are relaxing with dinner in the works.

The narrator then says: “When other vacation rentals aren’t what they are cracked up to be, try one where you’ll know what you’ll get.” Then viewers can see a tagline: “Relax, you booked a Vrbo. Private vacation rentals.”

The Vrbo advertisements don’t mention Airbnb but they clearly depict the “other vacation rentals” as those found on Airbnb. Airbnb, which considers its “unique” properties a competitive advantage, features search categories that include boats, containers, and windmills, for example.

In 2019, for example, Airbnb stated that 72% of its properties were exclusive to its platform.

The Relax/Spacship commercial takes a similar approach.

Vrbo has offered several ads in recent years that take jabs at Airbnb. A 2023 ad painted a contrast between Vrbo’s whole homes (now called private rentals) versus shared rooms at times at Airbnb.

A 2021 Vrbo host recruitment ad stated: “If you only list your vacation home on Airbnb, you might get a few people. You might attract someone looking for a quaint little studio. But if you list it on Vrbo, you’ll attract families looking for a bit more and who spend over twice as much more. Your dream guests await. Become a Vrbo host today.”

Can Vrbo Close the Gap With Airbnb?

Jon Gieselman, president of Expedia Brands, told Bloomberg Monday that Expedia Group would increase its $6.1 billion 2023 ad spend this year.

Bloomberg claimed that Expedia aims through its “marketing blitz” to “narrow the gap” with Airbnb.

But Vrbo isn’t anywhere close to Airbnb’s scale, and in some ways — despite the new commercials — doesn’t even try to compete head-on with Airbnb.

Vrbo focuses wholly on entire homes, and doesn’t have inventory to compete with Airbnb when it comes to urban apartments, and shared rooms, for example.

Airbnb had 9.1 million total listings, including 7.2 million active listings (those with a minimum of one review) in December 2023, according to AirDNA. Vrbo had 2.5 million total listings, including 1.3 active listings. In other words, Airbnb had 5.5 times more active listings than Vrbo.

That’s a huge gap to fill.

Airbnb declined to comment on the Vrbo commercials.



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Tags: advertising, airbnb, expedia, expedia group, hosts, marketing, marketing campaign, nfl, vrbo

Photo credit: A screenshot from the new Vrbo ad, Relax/Rooster, which takes a shot at Airbnb. Source: Vrbo

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