Airbnb CMO Mildenhall to Depart Weeks After Naming New AOR

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Jonathan Mildenhall, CMO - Airbnb (Photographed at the Airbnb Sydney offices)
Jonathan Mildenhall, CMO - Airbnb (Photographed at the Airbnb Sydney offices) Credit: James Horan for Airbnb

Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall will leave the company on October 20, about a month after appointing Wieden & Kennedy as the brand's new global agency of record.

"When I look back over my three years at Airbnb, I realize that I've accomplished what I set out to achieve," said Mildenhall in an emailed statement. "We've created a beloved, mission-driven brand that has helped create phenomenal value."

In the emailed statement, Mildenhall said Airbnb's "Belong Anywhere" campaign has become meaningful for the brand's community worldwide. "This impact leaves me compelled to take what I've learned and work with other founders to get people to care deeply about their brands," the statement added. "This is why I've decided to leave Airbnb to set up my own brand consultancy."

According to an earlier report from the Wall Street Journal, Mildenhall's new marketing consulting firm will be named 21st Century Brand. Mildenhall and representatives from Airbnb did not respond to inquiry for comment confirming the name of the agency.

Wieden & Kennedy will continue as Airbnb's new global agency despite Mildenhall's departure, according to an Airbnb spokesman. Mildenhall will continue working with Airbnb as a consultant on projects, including onboarding Wieden, the spokesman said.

Airbnb will conduct an external search with Spencer-Stuart for Mildenhall's successor. It was not immediately clear who will fill in as CMO in the interim.

Airbnb Co-Founder, CEO and Head of Community Brian Chesky said in an emailed statement that he met Mildenhall three-and-a-half years ago when searching for a CMO "who could take our little-known brand with a zany blue logo, and turn it into a brand that was more than just recognizable — but a brand that is loved and expressed our deeper purpose."

"I'll never forget the smile that brimmed from Jonathan's face when we gave him this challenge," Chesky added in the statement. "Looking back, I think it's safe to say that Jonathan led us well up the mountaintop."

Mildenhall, who was one of Ad Age's Power Players last year and on the Creativity 50 in 2012, worked at Coca-Cola North America as VP of integrated marketing communication and design excellence prior to his stint at Airbnb. Before that, he held various roles at agencies in the U.K. such as head of strategy at Mother and account management positions at TBWA, HHCL, DLKW Lowe and BBH.

Mildenhall has been outspoken on the subject of making the ad industry less white, and he strives to include diverse casting in the campaigns he oversees. Just this year, Airbnb's first Super Bowl ad, a last-minute purchase bought just days before this year's game, promoted "We Accept," a message of tolerance after company executives spoke publicly against President Trump's travel ban. The ad was created in-house.

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