Putting a new business on the map is never easy. But launching your company during the “Great Recession” makes this a truly amazing YouTube success story.
Airbnb was founded in August 2008 and is headquartered in San Francisco. The startup has grown to more than 200 employees by connecting people who have space to spare (property managers and renters willing to open their homes to guests) with those who are looking for a place to stay (travelers looking for a home away from home).
“Our whole vision was to make it as easy to book an informal accommodation as it is to book a hotel,” says Nathan Blecharczyk, CTO and Co-Founder of Airbnb. To help showcase their unique spaces, Airbnb produced 100 YouTube videos which feature some of their properties around the globe – including a castle for a night, a sailboat for a week, or an apartment for a month.
For example, check out “AirTV: Mansion Outside Edinburgh.”
Or watch “AirTV: Seven Rooms of Art in Tuscany.”
And you don't need to leave your pet at home. Look at “Search Sublets by Pet Friendly: Airbnb.com/sublets” to see what I’m talking about.
Airbnb’s marketing goals were fairly straightforward: Acquire customers for Airbnb’s unique online marketplace; attract, engage and inspire an audience beyond budget travelers; and increase awareness about Airbnb amongst consumers in target cities and countries.
What was somewhat unique was Airbnb’s marketing approach to achieving those goals. The company used TrueView ads on YouTube to thoroughly explain its unique service. These two-minute videos appealed to interested viewers, and Airbnb only paid for the ads when viewers reached a certain point in the video.
YouTube introduced TrueView Video Ads less than a year ago. This new kind of ad is less intrusive than the pre-roll. When users see an ad start to play, they also see a 5-second countdown button that will allow them to “skip” it. If the ad doesn’t seem relevant or engaging, users can skip it and continue to the video they wanted to watch.
YouTube only charges advertisers when a viewer has chosen to watch an ad, not when an impression is served. Google recently announced that TrueView has seen 4x growth since February and now delivers more than 18 years of video each day for advertisers.
Airbnb’s marketing team also used the Google Display Network as well as YouTube to reach travelers searching for online content related to travel destinations like Figi, Paris and beyond.
“What we were looking for were platforms and channels that allowed us to target a specific audience, particularly by geography,” Blecharczyk said. “We went to Google first because they have the best targeting tools.”
For example, if a YouTube viewer watches a YouTube partner’s snorkeling adventure video, that viewer may interact with one of Airbnb’s TrueView in-stream ads, such as “How to Airbnb,” which has over 1.2 million video views and has also been translated into French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Portuguese.
These skippable two-minute videos have helped generate 750,000 clicks on Airbnb’s TrueView videos in one month and over 450,000 video views over four months. Airbnb only pays for a TrueView in-stream ad when a viewer watches their pre-roll video ad up to certain point, at least the first 30 seconds, without deciding to “skip” the ad.
“Google has been tremendously cost-efficient because of the scale. When we see something is working, we scale it up, and when something is not, we optimize it, or we turn it off. The tools are definitely the most powerful,” Blecharczyk said.
Airbnb’s strategic and customizable advertising efforts on YouTube and the Google Display Network helped the company quickly grow from 800,000 nights booked to two million nights booked online during a six month period.
The company has been so happy with this business outcome that Joe Gebbia, the CPO and co-founder of Airbnb, and Blecharczyk have created a case study entitled “Airbnb’s Success with Google Display.”
Now, that’s a success story worth retelling.