Adding to the troubles, cruising as an entire category has been
pummeled with a string of unfortunate incidents, such as a recent
fire aboard a ship owned by competitor Royal Caribbean, among other
According to people familiar with the matter, Carnival this week
sent a document inviting pitches to a number of large media shops,
as part of which it referenced the negative publicity it has
experienced as a result of its crises.
Incumbent Havas Media, which didn't immediately respond
to a request for comment, was not invited to defend the business.
Havas Media -- formerly known as
MPG -- and sister agency Arnold
won the media and creative business in 2008.
"Carnival Cruise Lines is currently conducting a review of its
media buying and planning agency resources," said the company in a
statement, noting that it "has not conducted a review in several
years and is currently seeking a media buying and planning agency
capable of effectively building and managing integrated plans
across both traditional and digital media." The pitch is being
handled by Select Resources International, and the company's lead
creative agency, Arnold Worldwide in Boston, is not under
A big challenge for a new media shop will be to help positive
brand stories about Carnival surface in more media channels, both
online and offline.
Usually at times of crisis brands pump more dollars into
advertising to help counteract negative press. But rather than
support its flagship cruise brand amid its problems, Carnival has
cut back on measured media. In 2012, the company spent $66 million
on measured media in the U.S. across all of its brands. It devoted
about $22 million to marketing its Carnival Cruise Lines brand. In
2011, it spent roughly the same total amount devoted significantly
more, $39 million, on its flagship line. Neither year compares to
2010, when it spent $106 million in domestic measured media, with
$66 million devoted to marketing the flagship.
Carnival has, however, been very active on social media as part
of its crisis communications strategy in order to address
criticisms about the safety of its ships.
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.
In its most recent earnings documents, Carnival Corp. reported
that revenue was flat, but it saw a $24 million decrease in cruise
passenger ticket revenues compared to the same period the year
before. The company also derives revenue from onboard spending of
passengers, from gambling and liquor, for example. But it claimed
the dip it saw wasn't from less passengers booking, but a drop in
prices. "This decrease was caused by a decrease in cruise ticket
pricing" the report stated.