Cannes Lions

No Borders

TBWA\CHIAT\DAY , Los Angeles / AIRBNB / 2016


1 Silver Cannes Lions
7 Shortlisted Cannes Lions
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To make good on our beliefs as a brand and turn the tide with Airbnb skeptics, we had to think bigger than an advertising campaign. We had to make history. To do it, we went to the one place we knew we didn’t belong. Cuba.

The idea was to bring Airbnb into Cuba guerilla style––reuniting two neighboring countries during the longest running embargo in the world.

But as we worked towards that goal, history unfolded.

President Obama normalized relations with Cuba, opening the door for our creative idea to become the year’s biggest business idea. And because we were already working towards entering Cuba, Airbnb was able to be the first American company allowed back into the country after 50 years of separation.


A single creative idea sparked a business opportunity that unfolded over the course of 18 months.

By April 2015, Airbnb worked through the realities of political tension, state controlled media, and internet restrictions to announce that 2,000 Cuban listings were available for booking.

We marked the announcement by showing up next to the news that we created––with full page ads in major US newspapers proclaiming: “One giant leap for man’s kindness.”

A year later, Airbnb co founder and CEO, Brian Chesky, was interviewed by President Obama about the company’s impact on bringing the two countries closer together.

Again, we marked the announcement with iconic ads, and potent animations on Twitter which proclaimed, through the act of home sharing, Cubans and Americans were truly becoming neighbors again.

It was an idea that transcended advertising, blurred the lines between marketing and business, creating a historic moment with Airbnb at the center.


Two years ago, Airbnb was a travel and hospitality outsider, operating in legal grey area amongst mixed reactions, boycotts, and government opposition.

In a little over a year Airbnb’s listings in Cuba rose from 1,000 to 5,000, making it the company’s fastest growing market. And with 1,000 unique articles and over 2 billion impressions, it was the biggest earned media moment in the brand’s history.

Today, Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky, is a Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship, focusing efforts on Cuba and bringing Airbnb into a new era of legitimacy with a resounding endorsement from President Obama himself.

To date, Americans from all 50 states have visited Cuba with Airbnb, empowering Cuban hosts to earn 12x their average monthly salary.

Most importantly, the idea has helped connect two estranged countries, bringing us one step closer to a world where all 7 billion of us can truly belong anywhere.

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