Why Airbnb Turned 50 Of Its Most Popular Listings Into Birdhouses

So much whimsy! The design studio behind Airbnb’s new ad campaign explains.

Airbnb’s latest commercial could double as a pilot for “Pimp My Birdhouse” (a new show on Animal Planet?). The “community-driven hospitality company,” as they call themselves on their website, hired seven artists to create tiny birdhouse renditions of their 50 most intriguing listings worldwide. And then they hung these beautiful tiny homes from a tree known as the Tree of Life in New Orleans’ Audubon Park, filled them with seed, and filmed the local avian community in the lap of luxury.


Called “Birdbnb,” the commercial is part of Airbnb’s first integrated national ad campaign. San Francisco-based design firm Pereira & O’Dell created the feel-good short film in collaboration with music video director Alma Har’el.

“The idea started with the idea of birds as the ultimate traveler, constantly migrating, with birdhouses as a metaphor for the homes of Airbnb hosts,” PJ Pereira tells Co.Design. “Hosts put so much love into their homes, and we wanted to represent that somehow. The ad shows birdhouses being made with a crazy level of attention to detail, which is what Airbnb hosts do for the homes where they receive guests.”

The lilliputian properties include a wheeled gypsy caravan, painted in whimsical paisley; a mushroom dome cabin; and a rainbow sherbet-colored San Francisco home painted in green, magenta, and red.

“What makes a home feel like a home?” asks one of the commercial’s meditative narrators. “When someone’s individuality and personality is reflected in the design of the house,” answers another. The film ends with the artists joyfully playing music around the park’s Tree of Life bedazzled with twinkle lights while the birds move into their new homes. The website offers peeks behind the scenes of the film and photographs of all 50 original properties and their mini-me counterparts.

“Airbnb is not for everyone–it’s for people with a sense of adventure looking for a special kind of trip, looking to live closer to locals,” Pereira says. “Anyone can go find a hotel, but if you’re looking for a place with a soul, there’s nothing like Airbnb. This ad makes a clear statement of the kind of trip Airbnb is promising–one with a sense of adventure and personality.”

The Birdbnb spot is refreshing because it captures the essence of the brand well using a clever narrative. And this is part of the ad-making philosophy at Pereira + O’Dell: you must tell a story. “The story has to be first. We don’t just describe what Airbnb is, we tell a story of the artists making the birdhouses, which captures the attention and enthusiasm of a viewer. So many people say no one watches more than 30 seconds–but people actually are watching it. Because it’s a story they care about.” The birdhouses are on display at the Tree of Life in New Orleans until Sunday.


About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.