Celebrity Cruises Eyeing Outside Agency Partners

Travel Marketer Paying $50,000 to Keep Creative Ideas

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- How much is an idea worth? Depends who you ask.

Celebrity Cruises, which currently handles most of its advertising in-house, is reaching out to agencies to submit creative ideas. And for a $50,000 price tag, Celebrity Cruises gets to keep those thoughts, executives familiar with the recently-launched pitch say.

A spokeswoman for the cruise line said, "We are seeking project-based partners," and stressed that "we're not shopping for an agency of record, but rather seeking potential agency support." She declined to confirm the dollar figure agencies would be compensated for their ideas.

Celebrity's search for outside ideas comes as some marketers this year have ventured outside of their in-house advertising outfits. Prudential Financial, which has historically handled its marketing in-house, in May opened up the sourcing of its creative ideas, asking outside agencies to pitch work. But it wrote much bigger checks to agencies that participated, though: about $350,000. New York indie Droga5 is the last shop standing in the pitch.

Celebrity is owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises, whose advertising is handled by WPP's JWT. The two brands operate pretty autonomously, however, so it's unlikely JWT would be asked to pitch ideas. In total, Royal Caribbean Cruises spent $72 million on U.S. measured media in 2009, according to Kantar Media. Of that, just more than $20 million was devoted to marketing the Celebrity brand.

Like many travel marketers, Celebrity -- which sails to Latin America, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe, and has a combined 39 ships in service and three under construction -- struggled through economic downturn but is showing signs of bouncing back. It posted net income for the second quarter of $60.5 million, or 28 cents per share, compared to a net loss of $35.1 million in the year-ago period.

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