The do-it-yourself home rental company Airbnb just yanked the plug on a controversial ad campaign in San Francisco that bragged about the amount of taxes the $1.5 billion company paid to the city.
"Dear Public Library System, we hope you use some of the $12 million in hotel taxes to keep the library open later. Love, Airbnb," reads one characteristic ad.
The campaign was widely mocked on social media as a bizarre and self-involved attempt to take credit for paying lawfully levied taxes.
"The intent was to show the hotel tax contribution from our hosts and guests, which is roughly $1 million per month," Airbnb spokesman Christopher Nulty told VICE News. "It was the wrong tone and we apologize to anyone who was offended. These ads are being taken down immediately."
Locals posted photos of the ads on Twitter, and many online expressed disbelief that the company could be so tone-deaf.
Once it became clear the ads were in fact genuine, the company became an object of ridicule.
The campaign had blanketed the city just weeks before a much-anticipated vote on Proposition F, a ballot measure designed to reign in Airbnb's activities in the city.
The proposal would cap rentals to travelers at 75 days a year, and trigger steep civil fines and costly lawsuits against the company in the case of violations. The measure also requires hosts and the company to share data with the city about the number of hosts operating and their revenues – something regular landlords are already required to do.
Airbnb spent more than $8 million trying to defeat the initiative, which it calls "a hotel-backed measure that is falsely drawing a line between regular San Franciscans sharing their homes and a decades-long housing crisis."
The controversial ad campaign, however, was not officially part of that effort.
When VICE News asked Airbnb to explain how such an abrasive ad campaign got the green light just weeks before an important election, the company declined to comment.
Photo via Flickr