HomeAway Boosts Marketing Budget as Home Rental Category Heats Up

New Campaign Emphasizes Differences From Rival Airbnb

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HomeAway, the vacation-rental company, is doubling down on marketing as it looks to build its brand and distinguish itself from rivals, namely Airbnb.

Since going public in 2011, HomeAway, which advertised in both the 2010 and 2011 Super Bowls, backed away from brand marketing efforts. It focused instead on integrating the myriad technology platforms it had inherited through a series of acquisitions, said co-founder and CEO Brian Sharples. HomeAway went five years without a CMO.

In July of last year, the company recruited Mariano Dima as its new CMO. The former Visa Europe CMO has two decades of experience at marketers including PepsiCo, Vodafone and Levi Strauss. Mr. Dima brought in Landor for a review of the brand and brand positioning, and he tapped Saatchi & Saatchi, London, as HomeAway's new agency.

"When I was doing Super Bowl, I was spending most of the money on Super Bowl. It was a one-shot deal, and it worked tremendously well," said Mr. Sharples. "You'd get written about, it built awareness, but then it tailed off. After doing that for a couple of years, I decided a few things. One, we weren't big enough to do brand advertising that was going to stick. We needed to do something that wasn't just a one-off. And, two, we needed to get our house in order from a tech perspective."

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With that accomplished, HomeAway is unveiling a new campaign, "Whole Vacation," launching today, which is meant to be the beginning of a multi-year consumer marketing push. And Mr. Sharples says the company is ready to invest. It will boost its $60 million budget by 50%, he said, adding that 70% to 80% of that will be spent on digital media. TV ads are slated to run in the U.S., Germany, France and the U.K.

Mr. Sharples said that though the timing of the campaign rollout is related to the completion of HomeAway's technology and engineering mandates, it's still "a pretty good time for us to get active, because this space is heating up."

"Let's stay together" and "Half the price of a hotel" have been rallying cries for the brand in the past, Mr. Sharples said, but they didn't quite get at the root of what differentiates HomeAway from rivals like Airbnb. The full tagline for the new campaign is, "Whole House. Whole Family. Whole Vacation."

Ninety-five percent of HomeAway's inventory is second homes, mostly in beach, ski and country locations, said Mr. Sharples. Airbnb, on the other hand, has more inventory in cities and isn't always an entire house. "'Whole House' is a touchpoint against Airbnb and others like that," he said. "The 'Whole Family' part is really speaking to our demo and the kind of travelers we're trying to attract."

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