Cannes Lions

Halloween Night in Paris Catacombs

AIRBNB, San Francisco / AIRBNB / 2016

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Case Film






Big Idea: Spend Halloween in “the world’s largest grave.”

For the most terrifying night of the year, the Catacombs of Paris and Airbnb hosted a contest to give somebody a chance to be the very first live person to sleep amongst the dead.

Airbnb’s mission: help people “belong anywhere.” But this promotion was special as no one had ever been granted permission to spend the night in the Catacombs.

It wasn’t just a “night in an extraordinary” place, it was an idea designed to capture the attention of the press and public and generate significant earned media attention.

Why the Catacombs?

* Create global conversation with a great PR hook; raise awareness

* City partnership reinforces our relationships with cities around the world

* Demonstration our access to the most interesting places in the world

* Proves that anyone can truly belong anywhere


Press release, PR outreach, and social posts about the contest, all launched in early October, promoting the two-week entry window.

Media attention around the program took an unexpected turn and the story got “hotter” than we anticipated (see results below) but rode the wave of interest in the story to generate increased global coverage.

20,419 entries later, Pedro, from Brazil, was our lucky winner. During the night of October 31, he got to spend the night in the depths of Paris, alongside the centuries-old remains.

After a private tour of the labyrinth of bones and skulls, the guests will enjoy a daunting culinary experience to the sound of violins. At bedtime, a storyteller read some catacombs legends to make sure Pedro didn’t experience any sweet dreams. The next morning, he became the first person to ever wake up in the Paris Catacombs.


20,419 entries

17,814 new sign-ups

284,562 unique page views of the contest entry page

517 Key media hits (TV, radio, print, online)

14.8 million earned Twitter impressions

At the launch of the contest, there was great buzz from the quirky news press (HuffPo, GQ, etc.) but then the story got politicized and there was a mini-scandal about the city allowing Airbnb to host guests in the Catacombs. (Figaro, Parisien, Le Point, The Times, etc.)

From there, the story got global attention and “What’s happening in France?” stories were filed by many mainstream outlets (Time, Today Show, Newsweek, CNN, etc.). And then, during the visit itself on Halloween, there was additional coverage around the “Atypical Halloween” angle. (AP, Reuters, etc.)

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