Hostmaker Ad Greeted with Complaints

B2C - Brand Strategy
B2B - Brand Strategy

London travel rule Number One: do not make eye contact on the Tube. If you’re not looking at your phone or reading a paper, there’s only one safe place to rest your gaze: the adverts. Thank goodness for those adverts. That’s how a defaced Hostmaker campaign came to our attention one sunny Saturday on the Overground line.

The main ad copy reads:
“My long-term let is ticking along terribly”.

The remastered-with-a-Sharpie-version reads “My long-term let is someone’s home.”

Hostmaker, a rental property management company, has had to remove this campaign due to complaints, and it’s an interesting example of a misjudged message.


Hostmaker manages short-to-mid term Airbnb lets for landlords. This campaign, which was shown across Tubes and stations, encourages long-term landlords to switch to Hostmaker’s services for more transient lets. Unsurprisingly though, the people of London were not on board.

In a city where a generation of Londoners can’t afford to buy homes, are forced to live in overcrowded or unsuitable renting conditions and where a record number of people are sleeping rough, this OOH campaign  aimed at landlords completely misses the mark.



It’s understandable Hostmaker thought to appeal to long-let landlords – there’s an obvious financial benefit for landlords to switch to more profitable shorter lets. You can see the thinking: put out that message and see the new Hostmaker customers roll in. But Hostmaker failed to consider how this message works when placed amidst London’s socio-economic and cultural landscapes. Renters, as well as landlords, saw this campaign plastered around the tube network.

It’s one of the pitfalls to be wary of when ‘everyone’ is not your audience.



By overlooking who’s seeing your advert, a company can show themselves to be out of step with consumers and consumer beliefs. And as Generation Z emerges, seeking out companies they’re ‘morally-compatible’ with to endorse and champion, it’s increasingly important for brands to pay attention to cultural and social dynamics.



The message in Hostmaker’s OOH campaign could have been softened. The approach could have been less about profitability and more about the flexibility of Hostmaker; for instance, using Hostmaker to fill weeks in between tenancies, or in partnership with tenants as a sublet option.

Or, if the message was to remain the same, it would be prudent to scrap OOH advertising and focus solely on targeted strategies to reach your intended audience. We’re talking things like:
– display adverts on investment websites,
– print adverts in targeted financial publications,
– partnering with a landlord’s insurance company to run a direct mail or email competition solely to landlords,
– and so on.



The best campaigns know the exact audience they’re targeting, what message will resonate and where to put that message. But all advertisers also need to ask if it’s the right message to be putting out there in the first place. You can’t advertise as if you’re in a vacuum. Real people will be looking up at your ads on the tube. Real people, with marker pens to hand.

By Shona O’Leary – Senior Account Manager at Studio Black Tomato