The Real Deal Los Angeles

Airbnb rolls out LA ad campaign & national anti-discrimination policy

Website addresses criticism with multifront PR blitz

September 08, 2016 01:10PM

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Eric Holder

Amid legal challenges and discrimination-based criticism across the country, Airbnb is making moves to improve its public image.

Locally, Airbnb is taking a feelings-based approach to countering criticism. The short-term rental company launched a new ad campaign in the Los Angeles area Wednesday, featuring hosts that make an emotional case against the city’s impending regulations. One day later, Airbnb announced its new set of anti-discrimination measures, including the recruitment of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as a consultant.

“Airbnb helps me,” says Vanessa, an Airbnb host from South Central L.A. and the star of one of the ads, as an uplifting piano melody plays in the background. “Without that income I wouldn’t have survived. Without that income now I wouldn’t be able to stay in my home that I’ve been in since I was 12-years-old.”

Still from an Airbnb ad

Still from an Airbnb ad

The 30-second commercials are being aired as City Council prepares to roll out regulations and restrictions on short-term rentals.

The proposed rules dictate that users could rent out their homes or a room within their homes for no longer than 180 days annually. Units listed as a short-term rentals must be the user’s primary residence, defined as the home in which they live for at least six months out of the year.

Those who don’t abide by these rules would face hefty fines, and all hosts would be required to pay transient occupancy taxes.

On Thursday, Airbnb released a 32-page report detailing its new anti-discrimination policy in response to recent criticism that hosts have been turning guests away based on race or nationality. It was penned by former American Civil Liberties Union director Laura Murphy, a new hire alongside with Holder.

“An increasing number of Airbnb hosts and guests have voiced their concerns about being discriminated against when trying to book a listing because of their race, sexual orientation or gender identity,” she wrote. “This outcry from the community led Airbnb to closely examine their nondiscrimination policies and procedures.”

The new rules, effective as soon as next month, call for the company to provide assistance to users who feel they’ve experienced discrimination, anti-bias training for all staff and an updated approvals process. [Curbed] [Airbnb]Cathaleen Chen