P&O Cruise Ship Sails Into Aussie Soap 'Neighbours'

Popular International Show Tapped to Make Vacationing at Sea Appeal to Younger Travelers

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LONDON (AdAge.com) -- An international cruise-ship company is tackling the fuddy-duddy reputation of cruise vacations by paying to feature in a storyline in "Neighbours," the long-running prime-time Australian soap opera where singer Kylie Minogue started her career.

P&O Cruises, part of U.K.-based global travel group Carnival, is being featured in two episodes, which air on Wednesday and Thursday this week in Australia. The international company will get more bang for its buck when the episodes are aired in the rest of the 50-odd countries in which "Neighbours" is screened in the coming months.

'Neighbours' stalwart Toadie provides some on-board entertainment.
'Neighbours' stalwart Toadie provides some on-board entertainment.
Geoff Clarke, a director at P&O' s Australian media agency MediaCom, said that the idea of featuring a cruise in "Neighbours" came about because the brand challenged the agency to find ways of "making cruising more central to Australian mainstream households."

"Neighbours," whose core audience is under 40 years of age, was the first choice, said Mr. Clarke, and when the show's producer, Freemantle, and the channel on which it is broadcast, Network 10, agreed, plans were made to start building the idea of a cruise into the storyline.

It was agreed that the storyline would present cruising in a positive light. In Australia, the image of cruise vacations has suffered not just from the perception that they are designed for older travelers, but also in the aftermath of the sordid death in 2002 of a female passenger on board a P&O-owned cruise ship, and subsequent investigations into the case.

In the cruising storyline in "Neighbours," the character Toadie -- a popular stalwart of the show -- takes his girlfriend on a trip on the Pacific Jewel after his son wins the cruise as a prize.

Mr. Clarke said that the storyline, which takes up around seven minutes over two evenings, would "bring to life the fun of cruises, like showing how great the food is and the on-board entertainment." He added that the branding is "quite subtle, we didn't want it to be very obvious."

Mr. Clarke wouldn't disclose how much P&O is paying to be part of the "Neighbours" storyline but said he was "blown away by how cost-effective it is."

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