CANNES/SAN FRANCISCO: Brands serving diverse audiences should endeavour to represent all the elements of their customer base in ads, according to Jonathan Mildenhall, Chief Marketing Officer at Airbnb, the online accommodation and experiences platform.

Mildenhall discussed this subject at a panel session organised by YouTube during the 2017 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

"Brands have a responsibility to shareholders to perform the best that they can," he said. (For more details, read WARC's exclusive report: Airbnb's diversity-driven advertising philosophy.)

"So, if your business is focused on – and just interested in – the disposable income of the average, white, heterosexual family with a couple of kids, then by all means you should just show them in advertising.

"But I can't think of many business whose total revenues are based on such narrow-cast views of casting.  And so, if your business is driving revenue from any kind of community, then that community deserves to be portrayed in the advertising.

"And it is so, so important that the portrayal of advertising does genuinely reflect the community base of any brand."

As Airbnb's accommodation platform boasts a user base covering 65,000 cities in 191 countries, it spans almost every conceivable country.

Data from intelligence firm SimilarWeb also suggest that visits to its digital hub rose by 31% to 106.9m in the first quarter of 2017.

That meant it attracted more traffic than any hotel brand site – for example, or – as well as industry "metasearch" offerings such as or these impressive figures, in turn, hint at the underlying imperatives which inform Airbnb's diversity-inspired advertising strategy.

"Our community is one of the most diverse communities on the planet," Mildenhall said. "What's beautiful about that is we have a responsibility to understand the demographic make-up in a particular market. And all we have to do is reflect that.

"It's important that we do reflect that with authenticity in our marketing messages, but also in some of the products that we will develop."

Data sourced from WARC