Carnival Cruise Lines last month filed suit against SeaEscape Cruises, in an attempt to stop its use of the tagline "SeaEscape to a ship full of fun" since Carnival long has used the trademarked phrase "The fun ships" in advertising and marketing.
It accused SeaEscape of copyright infringement, alleging SeaEscape's slogan would confuse travelers who would perceive an association between the two.
POKING FUN IN ADS
SeaEscape and its ad agency, G&L Group, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., responded with a new ad campaign poking fun at Carnival's lawsuit.
Radio spots now running in the Fort Lauderdale area play the jingle from the disputed SeaEscape campaign, which broke in March, with the word "fun" bleeped out.
The agency also added a message to the revised jingle: "There's nothing wrong with your radio, but Carnival Cruise Lines is telling us, and you, we can't say SeaEscape is a 'A ship full of . . .' you know, the F-U-N word. Come aboard SeaEscape, and from the gourmet cuisine to the fabulous entertainment and sizzling casino action, you'll have some real, 'you know.' And maybe you'll tell Carnival to lighten up a little. Ship's registry Bahamas. SeaEscape is in no way associated with Carnival Cruise Lines."
Jim Lobel, CEO of G&L Group, said he had no idea the campaign, developed to let Floridians know that SeaEscape's 6-hour cruises offer more than gambling, would be perceived as similar to Carnival's slogan.
"Our first reaction was that [the suit] is very silly," Mr. Lobel said. "SeaEscape is not in the same arena, and doesn't appeal to the same people."
HAVING SOME FUN
The new "bleep" ads are a way to respond to Carnival's "attack" by making fun of it.
"If we thought we were doing anything wrong, we would have done a different ad campaign," said SeaEscape Exec VP Bruce Yasukochi.
Although they have not decided how long the "bleep" radio spots will air, both SeaEscape and G&L executives said the original campaign will run for a "long time."
"A lot of different headlines could be fit into this," said Mr. Lobel, who is planning outdoor and transit ads in addition to the newspaper and radio ads. "We intend to continue it as long as we can."
A Carnival spokeswoman said SeaEscape's "bleep" radio ads attempt to simplify the issue, and the company may be just trying to obtain free publicity.
"Despite how SeaEscape is trying to position things, it's not about using the word 'fun.' The issue is the similarity between the two slogans and whether [consumers] can perceive an association between two companies," the spokeswoman said.
Carnival also has an "obligation" to protect its trademark, she said. A preliminary hearing is set for mid-August.
'BIG COMPANY' CONTROL
Meantime, SeaEscape said it will continue to target a "big company's" attempts to control the use of the word fun.
SeaEscape has one ship, and spent $1.1 million on advertising last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Carnival has a fleet of 14 ships; it