Hostelworld and Airbnb forced to take down controversial ads

Two big names in the hospitality industry this week had to apologise and take down their latest ad campaigns. Hostelworld and Airbnb got into hot water for their controversial ads.

Airbnb's poster campaign rolled out across San Francisco

Airbnb's poster campaign rolled out across San Francisco Image by Martha Kenny

Airbnb’s city-wide poster campaign across San Francisco backfired. The campaign was a tongue-in-cheek criticism of the $1m hotel tax that Airbnb has to pay up each month.

The ads had some funny San Francisco-specific references in them such as, “We hope you use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to put escalators on all the hills”. But one poster in particular  caused offense, when Airbnb took on the public libraries: “We hope you use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep the library open later.”

People took to Twitter to criticise Airbnb’s passive aggressive tone and dismissal of a much-loved public library system. The hosting company told Business Insider it was taking the posters down and that it had not meant to cause offence, although it’s speculated that the campaign was a response to an upcoming ballot measure in San Francisco that would limit the number of days that guests can stay in a host’s property.

Hostelworld ran a travel-inspiring video campaign that follows a group of intrepid adventurers as they meander through a dreamy jungle, finally coming upon a cliff with a steep drop into a pool. The ad campaign was shot in Ik Kil, a popular tourist spot in Mexico for cliff jumping since its known to be 50 metres deep.

Hostelworld got into trouble for promoting 'tombstoning'

Hostelworld got into trouble for promoting 'tombstoning' Image by Hostelworld

The group of friends proceed to take off their clothes and jump. What caused controversy however, was not the nudity in the video, but the way in which it encouraged the act of ‘tombstoning’ or diving into water from a cliff without knowing its depth or if there are rocks. The practice has claimed several lives and injured many, so that the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK upheld complaints, saying that the ad encouraged a dangerous practice. View the video here 

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