How Airbnb used ad sequencing to bring their new product to life on YouTube

Kristen Shipley, Sarah Clark / February 2020

When Airbnb introduced their new product ‘Airbnb Adventures’ to the market, the brand explored ways they could bring it to life and engage with adventure-loving travellers. Through a clever campaign, Airbnb captured footage of real-life travellers enjoying the Adventures experience first-hand, which they then turned into content. They used the content to produce tailored ads, with the help of ads sequencing, to tell their stories and inspire viewers on YouTube. For the viewer, they were served up different experiences based on what type of traveller they were. Want to learn more? Here’s how they did it.

When it comes to travel, planning the trip can be the hardest part – especially when your goal is to explore and immerse yourself in a new country and culture. People want more authentic and local travel experiences, especially millennials. The tours and activities sector is growing faster than the total travel market, and forecast to grow to $183 million this year. So, how can travel marketers cut through the noise, grab the attention of consumers, and offer the experiences they want?

How Airbnb used ad sequencing to bring their new product to life on YouTube
We wanted to create a thoughtful narrative that would pay off and be visually interesting.

As a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique accommodations around the world, Airbnb decided to create a new venture, giving travellers ‘Airbnb Adventures’; an experience for people who want to “ditch the tourist trails and go deeper with wildly unique adventures around the world.”

The approach: Creating the campaign

“We wanted to create a thoughtful narrative that would pay off and be visually interesting,” explained Dwight Pirtle, Airbnb Connections & Media Activation.

Before the launch, Airbnb invited six random people who had never met before to try the ‘Airbnb Adventures’ offering. Before their trip, the adventurers had no idea about where they would be going, and were told to simply pack their bags and get ready for their next adventure. The destination ended up to be Oman, and throughout the trip, Airbnb filmed short videos – capturing authentic footage of the travellers experiencing it first-hand – which they could then repurpose for their ads.

Ready for launch of ‘Airbnb Adventures’, the Airbnb team wanted to help consumers understand how it differed from their existing offering. To help explain and amplify their message, the team took viewers on their own unique adventure by using Video Ad Sequencing to show viewers a series of ads, telling the story about their new product.

Creating the ads: How they did it

Airbnb created several video ads in-house highlighting ‘Airbnb Adventures’ including 6-second bumpers, 15-second ads, and a long-form ad that chronicles the six travellers’ journey.

By collaborating with the creative and media teams early in the process, the marketing team was able to align to set the right KPIs around consideration and conversions. They could then plan several different scenarios to determine which sequence would tell the best ‘Airbnb Adventures’ story. They started with the non-skippable 15-sec product overview teaser, followed by three 6-sec. bumpers, and ended on the skippable 12-minute long Oman video.

Reaching viewers, tapping into their passions, and driving results

“We wanted to make sure we showed people the product multiple times in different ways and convey the transformation, emphasising that everyone can go on to experience,” said Pirtle.

Airbnb knew it would be key to get in front of people who would most likely try Adventures. By using custom affinity audiences, Airbnb hoped to reach specific groups like travellers and adventure-seekers. For example, if someone was searching for “tropical vacation”, they may see this ad, or if they were searching for “skydiving”, they might see this ad, showing a more adventurous activity.

The results

The campaign drove significant awareness for the ‘Airbnb Adventures’ product and moved metrics across the funnel.

In summary:

  • The ad campaign garnered nearly 8M impressions on YouTube.
  • Airbnb saw a 50% increase in ad recall and a 22% lift in purchase intent.
  • The conversion rate was 40 times higher than the overall account average – showing people were interested in visiting the ‘Airbnb Adventures’ website to learn more.

Due to the brilliant collaboration between the Airbnb media and creative teams – working closely together, they were able to use audience signals to determine the best formats to tell their story, whilst controlling where creatives would show for the viewer.

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