After Backlash, Airbnb Says It Goofed With 'Dear S.F.' Ads

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This story includes a correction.

Original post, Thursday, Oct. 22: Alongside its $8 million campaign to defeat San Francisco Proposition F, a measure that would impose new restrictions on short-term rentals in the city, Airbnb thought it would gently call voters' attention to the good things it does for the city.

The result was a series of campaign ads on billboards and Muni bus shelters throughout the city. The ads point out the company was responsible for $12 million in hotel taxes over the past year. A typical message:

Dear Public Libary System,

We hope you use the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep the library open later.

Love,

Airbnb

As SFWeekly reports, that particular message drew a riposte from a San Francisco State professor who ran some numbers and came up with a guess that maybe Airbnb's $12 million could keep libraries open a couple minutes later every day.

The Airbnb ads were so tone deaf, in fact, as to inspire curiosity about whether they were a hoax. Really -- would a company touting a $25 billion valuation launch a campaign reminding the locals how grateful they should be?

Sponsored

Yes, that's just what the company did. In a brief apology reported by SFWeekly, TechCrunch and others, the company conceded that it had goofed:

“The intent was to show the hotel tax contribution from our hosts and guests, which is roughly $1 million per month. It was the wrong tone and we apologize to anyone who was offended. These ads are being taken down immediately.”

So the signs will be history. But Airbnb's idea is inspiring: It would be great to put up some billboards giving the city a chance to respond to the company's largesse with suggestions of its own about what it could do with its $12 million.

For example:

You could use your $12 million to dig a ginormous hole in your back yard, then shovel your big steaming pile of smug into it.

Please take that $12 million and shove it ... up a drainpipe. Then when El Nino comes, all that cash will come back out and we'll all have a swell surprise.

Maybe you could pile that $12 million on a flatbed truck and drive it around town so we could appreciate it even more.

Dear Airbnb: You're right -- the 3/10ths of 1 percent you contribute to the city budget makes all the difference