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374: Simply Honest Ads and In-House Creatives with Airbnb’s Hiroki Asai

374: Simply Honest Ads and In-House Creatives with Hiroki Asai, Global Head of Marketing and Creative at Airbnb

Hiroki Asai is the Head of Global Marketing at Airbnb, overseeing all marketing efforts and in-house creative teams. Hiroki grew up as a skateboarder in the 80s, loved the design aspect of that world, and started his career as a graphic designer. Eventually, he learned how to apply what he knew about creativity and design to solve business problems. He spent 18 years at Apple and served as Vice President of Global Marketing Communications and Executive Creative Director, where he was responsible for a variety of iconic marketing campaigns for a range of products, including the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Now, Hiroki is responsible for maintaining Airbnb’s strong global brand and sharing the stories of our millions of hosts who offer unique homes and experiences to guests around the world.

In this episode, Alan and Hiroki discuss Airbnb’s post-pandemic rebalancing of spend between performance and brand, why he is a firm believer in the importance of in-house creative teams, and what he thinks makes a great campaign today. Hiroki is an advocate for the creation of in-house creative teams for the benefit of the company, brand, and creatives alike. He believes in-house teams offer the distinct advantages of having creatives closely connected to business challenges and maintaining a close integration between “in-bound” and “out-bound” aspects. When hiring creatives, Hiroki looks for individuals who can both take a broad perspective and execute artistic visions while understanding the larger business impact. He also touches on the importance of storytelling and differentiation in marketing, highlighting the need to shift the narrative through brand tactics rather than solely focusing on performance metrics. In his opinion, a good campaign shows truthfulness and real stories by embracing simplicity, authenticity, intelligent messaging, and shared experiences as a response to the proliferation of overproduced advertisements. To this point, Hiroki tells us how Airbnb’s newest campaigns around Rooms and The Host’s Passport were influenced by first-hand user experiences, leading to a transformation in people’s perceptions and overcoming hesitations they may have about staying with strangers.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The benefits of in-house creative teams
  • What Hiroki looks for when he’s hiring new creative team members
  • What makes a great campaign?

Key Highlights:

  • [01:40] Hiroki’s recent travel
  • [02:50] From skateboarder to graphic designer to marketing exec
  • [05:30] Coming to Airbnb
  • [06:40] Hiroki’s view on in-house creative
  • [08:20] Advantages of in-house creatives
  • [09:50] What to look for when hiring an in-house creative team
  • [12:00] “The Great Rebalancing”: shifting post-pandemic marketing mix
  • [14:00] The interplay between the ethos and the product
  • [15:50] What makes a good campaign?
  • [19:50] Airbnb Rooms
  • [25:15] The Hart Family’s Airbnb experience
  • [30:20] Advice for your younger self
  • [31:05] Close the gap between design and marketing.
  • [32:45] Brands to watch
  • [33:55] Marketing shouldn’t be your differentiator.

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