HomeAway Chooses GSD&M to Lead Creative and Media

CEO Brian Sharples Says They'll Pass on Super Bowl in Favor of a Long-Term Campaign

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Online vacation-rental marketplace HomeAway has picked Omnicom Group's GSD&M to handle creative and media duties after a review.

GSD&M President-CEO Duff Stewart
GSD&M President-CEO Duff Stewart

At the outset, media was not a part of the pitch, but Duff Stewart, president-CEO of GSD&M, said they "just decided to go in and pitch it anyway" due to the "synergies you get with media and creative together."

The incumbent shops on the business were Vendor in Austin, and Publicis Groupe 's Optimedia. The company began talking to a range of shops a couple of months ago, partly driven by the desire to reconnect with consumers in a positive light in the wake of a spot in last year's Super Bowl that attracted criticism by some who thought it trivialized child abuse. It was quickly yanked off the air.

Brian Sharples, co-founder and CEO, told Ad Age : "We had a number of agencies that we talked to over a couple of months, and ultimately whittled that down to three agencies," who were Arnold in Boston, Muhtayzik Hoffer in San Francisco and GSD&M. "While all three did a fantastic job, in the end we chose GSD&M because we really liked the platform they created ... and we also like the fact that GSD&M takes a very holistic approach toward helping companies" identify their brand values, he said.

According to Mr. Sharples, the proximity of GSD&M to the company's Austin headquarters wasn't the deciding factor. "They won our business fair and square ... but the fact that they are here makes it extra nice," he said. "We are a very involved client -- and I'm very involved personally as CEO -- so one of the advantages of being close by is that we can stay close as the campaign develops."

For GSD&M, it's the second win in the matter of a month; just a couple of weeks ago the agency was named agency of record for two Mexican beer brands under the Crown Imports umbrella, Pacifico and Victoria.

The first work for HomeAway is expected to break in early 2012, and according to the marketer, the messaging will be more about raising awareness among travelers as an alternative to hotels, rather than trying to differentiate from the competition, such as AirBNB. "We're all about vacations...AirBNB is very focused on cities and metropolitan areas," said Mr. Sharples. Additionally, HomeAway targets groups and families more so than AirBNB, which is often patronized by lone travelers.

One thing they won't be doing again is the Super Bowl, despite having bought time in the big game the last two years. Said Mr. Sharples: "It was very successful for us in the days where we were virtually unknown, but at this point, we're very committed to building longtime sustainable communications"

Sitting out the Super Bowl is likely to save the company some serious money, too; ad time in recent years has cost as much as $3 million for a single 30-second ad. HomeAway's measured media spending is likely to total somewhere between $10 million and $15 million for the entire year, according to Kantar.

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