Integration: Celebrity names Digitas in shift to integrated strategy

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After sailing through two general advertising shops in two years, Celebrity Cruises docked its estimated $30 million to $35 million integrated account at Digitas, Boston.

The move to consolidate creative and media duties-the latter previously handled by WPP Group's Mediaedge:CIA-with Digitas, known for its direct, interactive and relationship-marketing capabilities, signals a strategy shift for Celebrity. Its prior creative agency was West Wayne, Tampa, Fla.

Celebrity is "going into more-targeted relationship marketing," said Ares Michaelides, senior VP-marketing and brand planning at Celebrity, adding that all media are being considered.

By segmenting customers, Celebrity can talk to them in different and relevant ways, said Mr. Michaelides, "as opposed to the mass communication, which is more of a shotgun approach of throwing something on the wall and hoping it will stick."

The shift in course began last spring when Mr. Michaelides, then VP-finance and administration for the unit of Royal Caribbean Cruises, took on his new role. The company was expanding quickly and he questioned whether Celebrity's targeting and communications were ready for it.

The terror of Sept. 11, which crippled the $11 billion cruise industry and sent it into deep discounting, merely accelerated the repositioning plans, said Mr. Michaelides, who, with the help of Helios Consulting, concluded that the target, message and communication venues had to change.

"Our philosophy has been that you need to reach the target audience with the right message at the right time with the right vehicle. Nothing's off the table" said Lou Ramery, senior VP-global head of marketing at Digitas.

Since Sept. 11, the company has been running newspaper ads-its last flight of TV spots was in August.

Celebrity, long positioned as a premium brand for high-income consumers in their 40s and 50s, will now target the psychographic of "experienced cruisers" and novices who have the propensity to cruise, Mr. Michaelides said.

There are plenty of them out there. According to Bob Sharak, VP-marketing at industry trade group Cruise Lines International Association, 78% of prior cruisers said they hope to set sail again.

Fast Facts

Marketer: Celebrity Cruises

Agency: Digitas

No. of ships: 9 by April

No. of berths: 16,000

Parent: Parent Royal Caribbean Cruises has proposed merger with P&O Cruise Lines in $6 billion deal

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