A handful of dancing fish are swimming away with the lead roles in Carnival's latest TV campaign. In two new spots, realistic, computer-animated tropical fish and swaying palms replace longtime spokeswoman Kathie Lee Gifford-retained as voice-over talent-as the central characters.
As the fish dance to an original mambo tune, a Carnival ship is seen plying the water's surface. And as palms sway to a calypso beat, a ship sails into view. "I guess some vacations are just more fun than others," says Ms. Gifford's voice-over.
SO LONG TO CELEBS
The commercials, from HMS Partners, Miami, are a departure from Carnival's campaigns during the past 12 years, which used shipboard shots of Ms. Gifford and other celebrities.
The new strategy is an attempt to differentiate the line's brand positioning, said Carnival President Bob Dickinson, who would only characterize the increased ad budget as "significant eight figures" and a double-digit percentage increase over previous media billings. The marketer spent $30 million on measured media in the first nine months of 1996.
The TV ads were spawned from a 1996 print campaign touting Carnival as a fun vacation option.
Royal Caribbean Cruises also is breaking new network TV advertising today, with six spots supporting the company's new brand name, Royal Caribbean International, and a new logo design and tagline: "Like no vacation on earth" (see Bob Garfield's review on Page 37).
The ads, from McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C., also depart from standard shipboard shots, using airborne "fly-by" visuals showing a vessel sailing at sea. Instead of the voice-over of actress Lauren Bacall, each spot has a different song and copy text.
The new cruise advertising comes at an important time for the growing industry. Less than 8% of the U.S. public has experienced a cruise vacation, with slightly fewer than 5 million people taking a cruise in 1996, according to the Cruise Line International Association.
The need to boost the market is keen, as some 18 new ships are scheduled to enter service through 1999.
Carnival executives felt that its positioning strength as the "fun ships" meant that its latest advertising didn't need to identify what's available on a ship, such as casinos and shipboard entertainment.
THE OWNER OF FUN
"We felt it was important to make clear that we at Carnival own `fun,' " said Rick Milenthal, HMS president.
"We wouldn't try this with one of the lesser brands in the Carnival family," added Mr. Dickinson, whose parent company also owns Holland America Line and Seabourn Cruise Line.
Other competitors have already charted new courses. In September, Celebrity Cruise Line broke a new campaign using animated characters, via Korey, Kay & Partners, New York. And two years ago, Norwegian Cruise Line launched the "It's different out here" campaign that used attractive models and provocative themes.
In each instance, executives noted the merits of selling the emotional experience of cruising, as opposed to the rational approach.
"We wanted to strike out in a new direction that gets people who historically might have been put off by yet more classic cruise imagery, to say that the kind of vacation we offer is connected with some of the most fundamental vacation and personal needs," said Adam Goldstein, VP-marketing. Royal Caribbean.
The goal in each new campaign is to make an emotional connection with viewers, one executives hope will convince neophytes that a cruise is an ideal vacation, added Mr. Dickinson.
INSPIRED BY LANDLUBBERS
The industry is taking its creative lead from archrival, land-based vacation locations. For years, resort destinations Orlando and Las Vegas have relied heavily on showing the fun to be had at their venues.
"The truly popular mass-market destinations have fun as a dominant element" in their advertising, Mr. Dickinson said. "We think we just simply have to say that."