Skift Take

Expedia/Vrbo removed the offending ad in Canada to put out a fire. But if the ad was disparaging to locals, why continue to air it globally?

Expedia Group has pulled a Vrbo ad in Canada because its use of a traditional Newfoundland and Labrador folksong triggered a backlash.

The Vrbo Relax/Rooster ad, which premiered February 4 during the Grammy’s but got more attention over Super Bowl weekend, used the folksong I’se the B’y as its theme.

The Newfoundland provincial government and Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador both reportedly demanded that Expedia remove the ad because they felt the use of the folksong disparaged the community and its culture.

The ad was meant to take a dig at competitor Airbnb – without naming it – suggesting that stays were different than advertised.

Steve Crocker, minister of Newfoundland’s Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation, issued a statement earlier in the week requesting that Vrbo remove the ad from TV and YouTube.

“Given the importance of this song to us, I think we do have the right to ask them to remove it or change it,” said Deborah Bourden, chair of Hospitality Newfoundland, the tourism board.

Expedia subsequently told Bourden that the ad is no longer running in Canada, according to a source familiar with the matter.

“The spot pokes fun at our competition, not anyone in Newfoundland,” an Expedia Group spokesperson said Thursday. “This is one of several ads in this campaign.”

Airbnb declined to comment on the issue.

Using the same folksong, Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism created its own ad that touts the attractiveness of the region. Ad agency Target Marketing created the ad for the tourism board.

Update: Here’s a statement about the Vrbo ad from the Newfoundland and Labrador government:

“We are disappointed the ad is still airing in other parts of the world, however, we feel that the video shared by Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism on social media this week has showed the world the true spirit of the province and we welcome outlets to share this version.

“The video features footage that showcases the natural beauty of our province, the spirit of our people, and our unique culture, set against the same song, recorded by local artist, Gordon Cormier.

“We invite our social media followers to redirect the attention garnered by the Vrbo commercial by sharing this post, which features the real Newfoundland and Labrador – a place that has captured the imagination of visitors from across the world.”


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Tags: airbnb, expedia, expedia group, labrador, newfoundland, vrbo

Photo credit: A Vrbo ad shows a trailer in a rental, seemingly disparaging unique places to stay offered through Airbnb. Source: Vrbo

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