Airbnb has launched its first major advertising campaign in Japan since a law to regulate short-term holiday rentals came into effect in June.
Under the theme ‘Wagaya’ (meaning 'a place where you can feel very much at home'), the work aims to raise awareness of the Airbnb brand and improve the image of home-sharing, known as ‘minpaku’ in Japan.
The campaign spans TV, online, social, print and outdoor media, with posters displayed in high traffic areas such as Tokyo's Roppongi Hills. It presents different travel scenarios, showing people using listings as families, couples and friends. The TV ads also draw attention to the variety of properties available, ranging from comfortable modern houses with pools to historic ones with open fireplaces. They feature the hashtag ‘#じつはエアビー’, which translates roughly as ‘This is actually Air-B' (Air-B being a common way for people to refer to the brand in Japan).
Airbnb works with Wieden+Kennedy globally including in Japan, where it also has a relationship with Dentsu. Wieden+Kennedy confirmed that it developed the creative elements of the campaign.
The concept of home-sharing is still less well understood in Japan than in similarly advanced economies. While it has proved popular among younger, urban travelers and inbound visitors, it carries negative connotations for some people, although awareness is growing now that Japanese companies such as Rakuten are offering their own services.
Airbnb suffered an initial setback when the new law was passed. The company was forced to cancel a large number of holiday bookings at short notice as the government did not allow a grace period for unregistered listings to remain active while hosts applied to local authorities for a licence. The move saw a reduction in inventory, which Airbnb expects to recoup over time.
Japan has a shortage of hotels but many vacant properties, which has helped motivate the government’s grudging acceptance of home-sharing. In addition to Rakuten, a major competitor for Airbnb is Booking.com, which aims to become known as a brand that offers holiday rentals as well as hotels.
Campaign’s view: TV and traditional media remain highly important as a way for brands to build credibility in Japan. A large-scale campaign like this stands to help Airbnb transition from being a niche brand for ‘early adopters’ to a more mainstream travel service.
The various travel choices are attractively presented and should help convey the message that it’s possible to book entire, comfortable properties as well as staying with hosts, which is the more common perception.
The biggest challenge all companies in the sector face is building inventory. That will only come through increased awareness driven by high-profile work like this, as many would-be hosts in rural areas are likely to be unaware that they have the option to list their properties online.