"We thank Carnival for their many years of great partnership and wish them all the best in their future marketing efforts," said Havas in a statement, noting that they "remain a key partner to our sister creative agency, Arnold."
PHD referred a request for comment to Carnival, which could not be reached by press time. The decision is an early sign that marketers aren't halting their review processes on account of the holding company merger that rocked the industry last week, the union of Publicis Groupe with Omnicom. It's understood that Carnival canvassed a field of shops that included players from Interpublic Group of Cos. and Publicis as well.
With the help of Santa Monica, Calif.-based consultancy Select Resources International, Carnival in late May invited several large media agencies to participate in a pitch. As part of the document it circulated to shops, noted the negative publicity it was battling due to a string of PR crises.
In 2012, a Carnival-owned Costa Cruise ship crashed on the coast of Italy and killed 32 people. Following that incident was the company's notorious "poop cruise," in which an engine fire stranded the flagship Carnival line's Triumph ship off the coast of Alabama and left passengers with a limited supply of food, water and plumbing for days.
Amid the reputational problems, Carnival has been pulling back on its paid communications. It spent $66 million in measured media in 2012, according to Kantar, about $40 million less than it was spending a couple years earlier.
The company owns a portfolio of cruise brands including its Carnival line, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, P&O Cruises, Cunard, Costa Cruises, Aida and Iberocruceros.