Airbnb to troll Trump during State of the Union

Commentary: As the US president delivers his address, the home rental site will run an ad countering his alleged nasty remark about Haiti and other countries.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

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

A view of Haiti, from the Airbnb ad.

A different view of these countries.

Airbnb; YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Silicon Valley and Donald Trump have rarely been snug bedfellows.

Their respective views of the world don't readily accommodate each other. 

So, as the US president makes his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Airbnb will attempt to counter his picture with its own.

The stimulus was Trump's alleged remark that America doesn't need immigrants from "shithole countries." These seem to include places such as Haiti, El Salvador and Africa.

So Airbnb put together a TV and digital ad campaign that tries to rise above Trump's rhetoric and present those countries as excellent destinations.

On Tuesday, the short-term rental company said it's launching the campaign on the very day of Trump's speech. MSNBC, CNN, Fox, Univision and Telemundo all plan to run the ad at some time around the State of the Union address.

The TV ad hits squarely at Trump's reported perceptions.

"We heard there's been some expletive-filled interest in these beautiful destinations," it begins.

What follows is a glowing presentation of these countries, together with the message, "Let's open doors, not build walls."

The White House didn't respond to a request for comment.

Airbnb says it's establishing what it calls "formal relationships" with Haiti and El Salvador.

"These agreements will focus on destination promotion, sharing aggregate data and establishing a stakeholder working group to identify ways to improve each country's tourism infrastructure," it said in a press release.

In Haiti, Airbnb currently has 370 hosts and 580 listings. In El Salvador, it has 790 listings and 1,100 hosts.

The company pointed a less than hospitable finger at the president. 

"Airbnb's mission remains building a world where anyone can belong anywhere," it said. "As world leaders engage in dialogue that is antithetical to our mission statement, we will continue to advocate for policies that open the world and bring us closer together."

Of course, Airbnb isn't without its own issues. Whether it's illegal registration in some cities or alleged sexual attacks by hosts, there are problems to solve.

Moreover, some might mutter that it lists rentals for $350 a night in Haiti, which, according to one nonprofit, is the average annual income in the country. Haiti is currently under a State Department travel warning, too.

Airbnb is no stranger to taking an avowed political stance. 

For example, its CEO, Brian Chesky, joined other top Valley CEOs in condemning the government's plan to end DACA, the program that gives undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children a chance to work and study without worrying they'll be deported.

Will this latest ad campaign make a difference?

Perhaps if it ran during "Fox and Friends"?

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