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Posted at 04:22 PM ET, 07/29/2011

Airbnb vs. The Old Spice Guy

GALLERY: PHOTOS: See current and past innovator match-up contenders.

The weekend is upon us, and that means it’s time to introduce this week’s greatest innovator match-up. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on and vote in our previous match-ups.

This week’s match-up: Airbnb vs. The Old Spice Guy.

Here’s how each of these entities moved the innovation needle:


A passenger is surrounded by luggage near the Eurostar terminal inside St. Pancras train station in London. (Carl De Souza - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Airbnb: Our resident blogger, Dominic Basulto, wrote about Airbnb on Tuesday, arguing that the company, which allows individuals to rent private homes and apartments on a nightly basis, has made tremendous strides. Their progress has, according to some estimates, placed the company in a position to rival the Hilton hotel chain. And, if you haven’t heard, Airbnb recently received a $1 billion valuation.

But the glow surrounding Airbnb dimmed Wednesday, when a blogger who goes by the name “EJ” posted a detailed account of what she said was the ransacking of her house by someone who had booked the use of her apartment through Airbnb:

They smashed a hole through a locked closet door, and found the passport, cash, credit card and grandmother's jewelry I had hidden inside. They took my camera, my iPod, an old laptop, and my external backup drive filled with photos, journals... my entire life. They found my birth certificate and social security card, which I believe they photocopied - using the printer/copier I kindly left out for my guests’ use. They rifled through all my drawers, wore my shoes and clothes, and left my clothing crumpled up in a pile of wet, mildewing towels on the closet floor.

These are serious allegations, to be sure — so serious, in fact, that Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky posted a response to EJ’s first blog post on the technology Web site TechCrunch outlining new safety features the company would institute to prevent a reoccurence of EJ’s experience. Chesky also wrote:

As soon as we learned what had taken place, our first concern was to make sure our host was safe. We have been in close contact with her ever since, and have worked with the authorities to help find a resolution.

But The Washington Post’s Hayley Tsukuyama has been following the story and reported that EJ posted an update on her situation Thursday in response to Chesky. While EJ’s original post outlined the ways in which Airbnb had helped her in sifting through the wreckage of her home, she said that the company had become less responsive.

As of Friday afternoon, Airbnb had not returned calls from The Post requesting comment.

That Airbnb’s underlying business model is innovative goes without question. The company has made it easy for people with extra rooms in their homes (think empty-nesters) to quickly turn those rooms into cash. It also allows individuals to stay in areas and meet locals they otherwise might not get to know if they stayed in a hotel. The prices vary widely enough that, for little more than the price of a plane ticket, you can have a guaranteed place to stay in some of the world’s most desirable locales.

But EJ’s allegations about her experience raise serious concerns as to whether Airbnb can not only buff its image sufficiently to retain its billion-dollar price tag but also ensure the safety of its customers moving forward.


In this publicity image released by Old Spice, Italian model Fabio, left, arm wrestles with former American football player Isaiah Mustafa during a press event for Old Spice in Los Angeles, Thursday, July 28, 2011. (SUSAN GOLDMAN PHOTOGRAPHY - AP)
The Old Spice Guy: Okay, bear with us.

Isaiah Mustafa is back in his towel and pitching for Old Spice. The former football player-gone-viral ad campaign star returned to face off against Old Spice’s newest pitchman, the harlqeuin novel hunk Fabio.

On Tuesday, we wrote about the match, which started when Fabio, in an Old Spice ad of course, challenged Mustafa to a “duel.” The face-off took place across social media, including YouTube, and was heavily promoted by the company. But, according to some, the gimmick was actually designed to boost the ad campaign after Fabio stumbled after taking the torch from Mustafa.­­

Old Spice has changed the game when it comes to advertising to men age 18-25, also known as the “brass ring”in advertising demographics. And other companies have taken notice. Edge shaving gel-maker Schick, fast-food franchise Dairy Queen and Keystone beer-maker Coors Brewing Co. have all used an overly confident, straight-to-camera absurdist pitchman to market their products in the wake of “The Old Spice Guy.”

Is Old Spice’s ad campaign more or less innovative than Airbnb? We leave it to you. Both companies have had wild success with their innovations and are working to recover from their mistakes.

More on innovation:

Innovator of the week: Airbnb vs. The Old Spice Guy

Five myths about entrepreneurs

Opinion | Invitation-only innovation is the way to go

The future of medicine

By  |  04:22 PM ET, 07/29/2011

Categories:  Business, Innovator of the Week

 
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