Airbnb CMO hunt continues as its former top marketers unite to launch own consultancy

At the start of this year, Mildenhall said he was personally still working with Airbnb / Airbnb

The chief marketing officer seat is still vacant at Airbnb as its former top marketers Jonathan Mildenhall and Alexandra Dimiziani ready the launch of the creative consultancy Twenty First Century Brand.

The Drum understands that almost 12 months after Mildenhall's surprise departure from the helm, Airbnb has yet to find a suitable replacement. Amid a year of change for the sharing economy darling it's also yet to fill the shoes of Dimiziani, who departed in January.

While Mildenhall had already outlined his ambition to launch a "marketing practice" in Twenty First Century Brand, what wasn't divulged was that Dimiziani would co-found the firm alongside him.

The agency is staffed by a number of ex-Airbnb employees as well as marketers from TBWA\Chiat\Day (Airbnb's old agency of record) and is set to officially launch later this month.

At the start of this year, Mildenhall said he was personally still working with Airbnb on both its premium service Airbnb Plus and the hunt for his replacement.

He added that he hoped his relationship with the firm would be "ongoing" but wasn't clear whether this meant Twenty First Century brand would in time offer consultancy services to Airbnb, or its global creative agency of one year Wieden+Kennedy.

The Drum reached out to Twenty First Century Brand for clarification on the above, but it did not respond to the question.

Twenty First Century brand's website says it will help "the world's most innovative" companies manage "marketing for transformational growth" across four measures: financial value, consumer value, cultural value and employee value.

While only Mildenhall and Dimiziani are listed as the consultancy's co-founders, it's understood that other have been involved in launching the business.

So who else is involved?

Neil Barrie, previously chief strategy officer at TBWA\Chiat\Day, is listed on LinkedIn as co-founder and managing partner of Twenty First Century Brand.

Ex-Dropbox marketer, Cam Ferrin, who led development of Airbnb's global brand strategy from 2014 to 2017 is also down as an associate partner of the business.

Rachael Holbrook, who worked with Mildenhall at both Airbnb and Coca-Cola (where he was chief marketing officer), has been hired as head of content and production at Twenty First Century brand. Holbrook left her role as Airbnb's global head of production in May 2018 but her LinkedIn profile states she has been a "creative consultant" for the travel brand since then.

And what's been happening over at Airbnb?

Over the past 12 months, one constant in Airbnb's marketing department has been Geoff Seeley – the exec Mildenhall appointed to the "critical" role of media director before he left last year.

When Seeley first joined his title was director of global connections and media activation but 'global marketing' has also been added to his title, per LinkedIn, suggesting that he may have picked up Dimiziani's responsibilities.

The Drum contacted Airbnb to find out if this is an interim measure and how long he has overseen the marketing department. A spokesperson declined to comment, stating only that the search for a new CMO was "ongoing" and an announcement relating to the global marketing team was imminent.

There's also been a change when it comes to Airbnb's creative, and since appointing W+K as its global incumbent last September, Airbnb looks to have been investing in content rather than big budget ad campaigns.

It was recently forced to drop plans to host a promotional sleepover on The Great Wall of China following a backlash from Beijing authorities.

Under Mildenhall, and when the brand was with TBWA, it made its name producing punchy reactive creative to political issues like Trump's travel ban, adopting anti-discrimination rules to put LGBT travels at ease.

​Mildenhall was also focused on diversity, issuing a call to action for creative directors from more diverse backgrounds to join the business ahead of his exit.

Away from the marketing department, Airbnb recently appointed Ann Mather as an independent director. Mather serves on the boards of Alphabet and Netflix and has a strong financial background, having been chief financial officer of Pixar.

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