Discover more from Alex’s Newsletter
Is Airbnb stitching listings together in their ads?
Triangulating Airbnb's ad's starting locations
Airbnb’s latest ad campaign (links below) scrolls briefly through several listings. If you pause the video, you can see the distance to each listing. So long as there are at least three listings, you can use the locations and distances to triangulate the starting point. I did this, hypothesizing Airbnb’s headquarters (in San Francisco) would be the starting point for all nine ads. To my surprise, there were nine distinct starting locations, four of which are on the west side of the US, the other five on the east side. Below is the (approximate) starting location of each ad:
The second pool ad and the castle ad are the only two that are close to Airbnb headquarters, while the rest are far away. Other observations:
All points are centered around the USA even though the listings are global
Over half of the starting points are in the ocean
The only non-Californian, non-ocean starting point is NYC, another major Airbnb headquarters site
This result makes me wonder how the graphics were generated. The starting point calculations were imperfect (more below), but reasonably close, suggesting that they used starting points rather than randomly generating distances. However, how they chose the starting point is unclear. My first hypothesis is that two ad teams (one in San Francisco, one in New York) created the visuals and selected starting points that were relatively close to their current locations.
One important caveat is that many these locations are approximate, since some of the triangulation calculations were imperfect. This is because the distance of some listings is incompatible with the distance of other listings. While several of the distances lead to a relatively tight diameter of <30 miles, some extend to over 300 miles. My second hypothesis is that three of the ads were created by a single team, whereas the other six ads are a conglomerate of >1 team resulting in slightly incompatible starting points. I have listed the ads I think are conglomerates below along with the degree to which they are incompatible.
I have also listed a link to each ad along with the location of each listing (the home icons), the distance from that listing (the lines), and the starting location that fits those distances as closely as possible (the pins).
Verdict: CONGLOMERATE - the Californian and Canadian listings are incompatible by ~50 miles each.
Verdict: NOT A CONGLOMERATE - the final diameter is 14 miles which could easily be a rounding error.
Verdict: CONGLOMERATE - the Villarubia Spain and Switzerland listings are incompatible by 170 miles total.
Verdict: CONGLOMERATE - the Australian and Italian listings are incompatible by ~60 miles each.
Verdict: CONGLOMERATE - the Florida listing is incompatible by 147 miles.
Verdict: NOT A CONGLOMERATE - the final diameter is 32 miles which could reasonably be a rounding error.
Verdict: CONGLOMERATE - the Idaho listing is incompatible by 120 miles.
Verdict: CONGLOMERATE - this is the worst offender, with the California listing being off by 311 miles.
Verdict: NOT A CONGLOMERATE - the final diameter is 24 miles which could reasonably be a rounding error.
Thanks for reading Alex’s Newsletter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.