Is Mankind Terrence?

I’m a huge Terrence Malick fan. So, this ad feels very familiar. Tone, lighting, angles, rising music, disembodied possibly subconscious stilted yet poetic internal dialogue leaking out, etc., all are Malick-esque. One of Malick’s recent films was called, “To the Wonder,” which could easily have been (and maybe should have been) the title of this ad.

As a consequence, my experience of this ad is that it feels borrowed. Which might be perfect for AirBNB.

The pull to the great unknown bright light beyond the window isn’t merely impossible to resist, it’s also the aspiration. It’s growing up. It’s meeting the unknown with an outstretched hand of friendship. It’s empathy borne of direct experience. It’s the enormity of possibility we never fully grasp. It’s the richer life cultivated through better understanding others. It’s completely up to us to define.

These themes are lovely, and might work for AirBNB if they were permitted to emerge without the action-step suggestions in the dialogue (and tweets) that seem to be distracting to so many viewers. They’re limiting, and seem out of sync with the breadth of the visual possibilities. The turns of phrase meant to sound profound come across as gross underestimations of what it would take to make them truly meaningful.

“Go look through their windows, so you can understand their views.” Yuck. This doesn’t mean the panoramic vistas beyond the glass, it means the potentially different belief systems deeply held by those living on the inside. Those whose belongings you’re renting. And with whom you may never interact personally.

How will I find out if Man is Kind by slurping a latte while planted at someone else’s breakfast bar in Toronto? If I’m using the portion of AirBNB that’s all about sharing a room when the owner is also home, I could see it. But it’s a real stretch to connect, and if I’ve never heard of AirBNB, I’m not going to know anything more about it after this spot. More importantly, the people who share the ethos of the best possible take-away messaging of this ad are probably already AirBNB users. AirBNB needs retirees and Baby Boomers and non true-believer/ dreamer/ travelers to start using the service. And some AirBNB providers just want more bookings, not self-selected opt-ins for transformative cultural exchange. So they’re not optimally served by the ad.

Why is using AirBNB instead of a hotel or time-share or all-inclusive resort any more likely to fulfill the ad’s goal of discovering if Man is Kind? It might be faster to learn that “no” is the answer by observing the poverty surrounding the gates of a Dominican Republic destination resort. Some of that is up to me, and what I’m willing to see. No matter whose windows I’m looking through.

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