“I think a huge source of brand vitality comes from agencies and media partners,” said Jonathan Mildenhall, CMO Airbnb at a special session hosted by the Economist on the sidelines of the Cannes Lions Festival. “As marketers we’ve got a huge responsibility to enable those agencies to stay vital and a lot of that comes down to compensation models that we try to introduce.”
Mildenhall isn’t alone. Even traditional FMCG companies believe payments-by-results is the future of the industry.
Bruce McColl, CMO of Mars admits to structure new principles around remuneration. “Unless agency partners grow with us they won’t attract the best people,” he added.
Coke versus Airbnb
Speaking of his seven years at Coca-Cola, Mildenhall compared it to “babysitting the brand”. “People had done such an amazing job before so my task was to look back at the archives and put that formula in today’s cultural lens.”
When asked what he would do differently if he went back to Coke, the Airbnb CMO said he would reduce the number of teams. “At Airbnb, we’re in the process of setting up future forward initiatives and don’t want to be dragged down by legacy.”
For him, moving to Airbnb has been a huge learning curve. The holiday rental company has a small management team, a beneficial setup, he said, especially when they come into areas of conflict. “Within the organisation performance marketing and brand marketing sit together. Naturally, driving the storytelling agenda and platform agenda are massively different. But because we’re a few people we’re able to come together and figure it out.”
He described working at Airbnb to co-parenting. “It took us four years to grow from 1 to 37 million,” he said. “With that growth comes massive responsibility and creativity without strategic rigour is a waste of budget.”
Part of that rigour is figuring out how to unlock creativity from its 40 million-strong community. “Not all the stories should come from marketers or agencies.”