Airbnb sets more candid photos to great songs in new round of ‘Categories’ ads

The brand invited more photographers to document their stays, then made slideshows with familiar soundtracks—and one with no music at all

Published On
Mar 29, 2023
A person standing by a lake with a horse

Editor's Pick

Anyone who’s sat through a middle-school end-of-year slideshow—and found themselves grinning ear to ear by the time it’s over—will understand why Airbnb’s current ad campaign, promoting its Categories of rental homes, works so well. It’s that simple combination of candid photography plus a great song—a can’t-miss recipe for emotional connection.

This is particularly true when the photographers are professionals.

Airbnb launched the Categories work last summer. Nancy King, VP of marketing at Airbnb, said at the time that the focus on categories came from the insight that consumers had gotten more adventurous during COVID about trying new places. Standout spots in the first round focused on the Camping, Castles and Amazing Pools categories—spots that featured Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm,” “Carmina Burana: I. O Fortuna” and Coolio’s “Fantastic Voyage,” respectively.

The new round of spots has some gems of its own, including a Farms spot with Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” as well as “Voicemail,” which takes a different approach—playing an outgoing voicemail message instead of a music track.

See those spots here:

Old Town Road | Farms
Photographer: Annie Marie Musselman
Music: Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus, “Old Town Road”


Voicemail | Islands
Photographer: Pedro Guimarães de Pinho
Music: None


Scott Trattner, Airbnb’s VP of creative, told Ad Age this week that the goal of the Categories campaign from day one has been to authentically show what an Airbnb trip looks and feels like. 

“To do this, our incredible in-house marketing and creative teams collaborate closely on the entire process, starting with identifying the Airbnb categories we want to feature and the locations we want to highlight,” he said. “From there, we send photographers and guests out on real trips and ask them to authentically document their stays. As you can imagine, the content we receive back is quite incredible.” 

The team is always looking to evolve the campaign in unique ways, he added.

“For example, we asked our creative teams to explore ideas that wouldn’t rely on a song to narrate, but that would result in something just as visceral and powerful,” he said. “This is how ‘Voicemail’ came to life—an island getaway coupled with a phone call that simply went to voicemail.”

See more spots below from the new round, as well as the previous round.

Yellow Submarine | OMG!
Photographer: Lisa Sorgini
Music: The Beatles, “Yellow Submarine”


Luna Mezzo Mare | Chef's Kitchens
Photographer: Anu Kumar
Music: Lou Monte, “Luna Mezzo Mare”


Time Warp | OMG!
Photographer: Guy Bolongaro
Music: Little Nell, Patricia Quinn & Richard O'Brien, “Time Warp”


Boombastic | Skiing
Photographer: Paz Camila Olivares Droguett 
Music: Shaggy, “Boombastic”


Fantastic Voyage | Amazing Pools
Photographer: Alana Holmberg
Music: Coolio, “Fantastic Voyage”


Shelter From the Storm | Camping
Photographer: Aysia Stieb
Music: Bob Dylan, “Shelter From the Storm”


O Fortuna | Castles
Photographer: Alex Huanfa Cheng
Music: “Carmina Burana: I. O Fortuna”