Cannes Lions

The Country Pub Project

AIRBNB, Singapore / AIRBNB / 2020

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Overview

Background

Australia is a strong and important market for Airbnb, with 86% brand awareness, world-leading addressable market penetration, and clear short-term rental regulations covering over 70% of the population.

However, ongoing and ever increasing domestic competition meant an uplift in brand was required. Airbnb in Australia had low unaided awareness (22%) and positive sentiment (59%) when compared with major competitor booking.com (39% and 79% respectively). From a business perspective, The Country Pub Project was developed to drive both metrics.

In order to achieve success, Airbnb needed to capture the Australian market and showcase the brand as more than just an accommodation site—instead, positioning ourselves as part of the local community, supporting hosts and guests alike.

To increase favourability across the country (with a particular focus on regional areas where supply and brand affinity weren’t as strong) Airbnb aimed to leverage Australia’s growing penchant for domestic travel.

Idea

The Country Pub Project is a sustainable tourism campaign that revives Australia’s country towns by revitalising their country pubs—in structure and in patronage.

The core premise is simple: encourage country pub landlords to list their accommodation offering with Airbnb, while simultaneously enticing travellers to go and stay with them. In doing so, we connect struggling rural communities with Airbnb’s existing global community of millions, providing a much needed boost to local economies and preserving a piece of living history.

A combination of physical restorations, authentic storytelling and merchandising tools, The Country Pub Project puts the spotlight on regional Australia and supports local communities, while also meeting our own business objectives.

Strategy

Our PR strategy was three-pronged:

Drive awareness amongst regional Australians about the benefits of hosting with Airbnb.

Reawaken Australia’s love of country pubs, and the unique experiences on offer.

Position Airbnb as a sustainable, authentic travel company that champions the needs of everyday Australians and local governments.

By first establishing strong partnerships with each of our country pubs and communities, we were able to gather stories that were then used to communicate our campaign message with absolute authenticity across public policy, paid media, earned media, owned channels, and a through-the-line advertising campaign featuring both national and region-specific executions.

Execution

A massive undertaking with many moving parts and multiple distinct target audiences, The Country Pub Project required a phased roll-out across a combination of channels including: public policy, paid media, earned media, owned channels, through-the-line advertising.

Phase One: Nominations

Airbnb asked Australians to nominate their favourite country pub or publican in need of a helping hand. To be eligible, pubs had to offer accommodation.

Phase Two: Restorations

Six pubs across Australia received a $50,000 grant and a team of design professionals to restore the accommodation to its former glory. Eye-catching listings were created within a new country pubs category on Airbnb.

Phase Three: Spread the word

A nationwide integrated campaign alongside region-specific content encouraged Australians to venture past their local pub and find their ‘not so local’ instead. Each channel captured the nuance of pub, town and community.

Outcome

The Country Pub Project experienced unprompted support from local communities, state tourism and national government.

Organic buzz generated 325 pieces of earned media.

Phase One saw an overwhelming response of 9000 nominations, with heartwarming stories about pubs and publicans.

Online content had an organic reach of 15.2m, with 31m total video views and an outpouring of positive sentiment across social channels.

A new category of listings featuring 50 country pubs was heroed on Airbnb’s homepage. This category grows bigger every day.

Marketing objectives were exceeded. Unaided awareness increased +6pts and brand favourability increased +3pts, seeing Airbnb overtake booking.com to regain its position as Australia’s favourite travel booking site.

Most importantly, The Country Pub Project continues to boost the economy of towns in need. Publicans have earned +30% revenue and experienced +300% occupancy, and the increase in patronage has had a positive ripple effect on other local businesses.

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