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Airbnb ad expresses support for Caitlyn Jenner

Technically Incorrect: To coincide with Caitlyn Jenner's ESPY award, Airbnb features an ad it's calling "Transkind" as part of its new "Is Mankind?" campaign.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Is Airbnb opening doors? Airbnb/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Brands are embracing causes like never before.

They seek credibility. They also seek association with stories that they believe will enhance their image.

On Wednesday night, Caitlyn Jenner -- formerly known as Bruce Jenner -- received the ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award, after her recent gender transition. (Jenner won the men's decathlon at the 1976 Olympic Games.)

Previous winners include the first openly gay NFL player Michael Sam, NFL-player-turned-soldier-killed-by-friendly-fire Pat Tillman and Nelson Mandela.

Airbnb chose Jenner's award to run its new campaign -- which has some wondering whether it was created by people riding on illegal substances -- with a slight twist.

The campaign -- titled "Is Mankind?" -- revolves around the idea that humans are being kind to let you into their homes and charge you money for it.

It features a baby walking toward a door, as the spiritual voice of Angela Bassett wonders whether human beings are good.

She encourages you at one point to sleep in other people's beds so that you can know their dreams.

In this ESPYs edition, Airbnb ends its ad with the titles "Mankind," Womankind," "Transkind."

Airbnb's CMO Jonathan Mildenhall explained to AdAge: "I just wish there were more brands out there who were doing active work and pushing people."

Some brands might be too frightened to be active. Others might simply feel it's not their place. For Mildenhall: "If you lean into groups of people who are being ignored by marketers, the halo effect on your brand can be phenomenal."

Critics might also fear that you're exploiting stories (without presumably paying those involved) for your brand's gain.

The ad aired after Jenner received her award. But Airbnb wasn't alone in associating itself strongly with Jenner. Before Jenner picked up her award, Google ran a moving 150-second ad featuring the story of a transgender man training at a gym that he regards as a safe place.

For his part, Mildenhall doesn't expect universal approval. He told AdAge: "I am prepared for my inbox to be flooded with haters who are challenging the position of inclusion... It's not going to be accepted by everyone."