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Earlier this week Airbnb launched an ad campaign aimed to sway San Francisco voters just ahead of their going to the polls over Proposition F. The measure would make it harder for Airbnb to do business in the city, by restricting short-term rentals on private homes. The issue has sharply divided San Francisco residents, some arguing that Airbnb ruins neighborhoods and reduces the availability of affordable housing — already difficult to come by in the tech-gentrified city — and others depending on Airbnb for a large part of their income.
But the company’s new ad campaign, which includes snide sloganeering about the quality of public services, has tilted the debate away from them. Rich tech workers? Fine. Condescending rich tech workers? Well, that doesn’t go over so well with middle and working class voters. Airbnb has apologized for its ad campaign, but that won’t fix the optics of it or of its long and expensive battle against Proposition F.
Here are your top five reads on where Airbnb went wrong:
This San Francisco Chronicle piece, published before Airbnb launched its much-hated ad campaign, explains the background on Proposition F, San Francisco gentrification, and the difficult role that Airbnb and other tech startups have played in the situation.
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San Francisco local Martha Kenney, an Assistant Profressor of Women and Gender Studies at SF State, took the company to task on Facebook, saying that Airbnb could have skipped the snotty ad campaign and donated directly to libraries and other public social services.
Airbnb’s passive aggressive ad campaign was wildly unpopular with citizens, and it torpedoed the company’s Nice Guy image. What are they, Uber? They cancelled the campaign now, but they’ve demonstrated a lack of customer empathy, something existing and potential Airbnb customers won’t soon forget.
Of course, bad publicity of this magnitude is an invitation for criticism of Airbnb’s operation as a whole. New York Daily News obliged with this piece, discussing Airbnb’s impact on neighbourhood cohesion and affordable housing. What happens if your neighbour turns his apartment into a mini hotel? What happens if most of your neighbours turn their units into mini hotels? And what impact will that have on rents?
Photo credit: Martha Kenney