Saatchi & Saatchi to help relaunch Titanic

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DURBAN -- A South African shipping firm has appointed Saatchi & Saatchi, London, to help refloat the Titanic with a $5 million marketing campaign.

The project aims to capitalize on the widespread popularity of the film "Titanic," which scooped 11 Oscars this year with its remake of the sinking of the lavish ship on April 15, 1912 with the loss of 1, 523 lives.

Durban-based RMS Titanic, a consortium headed by CEO Sarel Gous, a South African entrepreneur, plans to build a faithful replica of the original ship. The relaunched Titanic, however, will be kitted out with hi-tech engines and safety devices, as well as satellite television and global communications facilities.

The new ship's inaugural journey will repeat the original Titanic's route, leaving on December 29, 1999 from Southampton for a Millennium cruise to New York. At 11pm on December 31, 1999, the liner will pause for a short commemorative service at the spot where its predecessor sank, during which a wreath will be lowered and sealed wax candles will be released for every person who died.

The company plans to make a film recording the construction of the ship through to its arrival in New York for distribution to international TV stations. After the Millennium cruise, the new Titanic will be used as a pleasure cruiser.

Initially, Saatchi will advise on market]ing strategy. When the ship is built, the assignment could develop into an international account, including advertising. Saatchi, London, is acting as lead agency with assistance from the network's Johannesburg office. "This is an idea that's bigger than an ad," says a spokeswoman for Saatchi, London.

A rival Swiss-U.S. partnership is reportedly planning a similar venture to RMS Titanic, but aiming to set sail on an Atlantic crossing on the 90th anniversary of the disaster in 2002.

However, it has reportedly not yet secured plans of the original ship design from its builders, Harland & Wolff, while RMS Titanic already has those rights. "There's only room in the market for one of these boats," the Saatchi spokeswoman adds. Mr. Gous did not return calls by press time.

Copyright April 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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