Royal Caribbean cited the buying unit's muscle as a key factor in winning the $40 million account, which covers all national and local broadcast buying, said media executives close to the review.
With more than $3 billion in billings, Media Edge offered the necessary buying power to trim the cruise lines' media costs, said participants in the review.
Carat ICG, Atlanta, was the other finalist. Its parent, Carat North America, has $1 billion in North American billings through Carat ICG and Carat MBS, New York.
Parent company Royal Caribbean International had been exploring ways to create efficiencies after Royal Caribbean and Celebrity merged last summer, said executives close to the review. The company held meetings with roster agencies in mid-January to discuss marketing plans for 1998 and shortly after placed the buying in review.
Incumbents McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C., Royal Caribbean's agency; and Harris Drury Cohen, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which handles Celebrity, participated in the review and will retain media planning and print buying.
WestWayne, Atlanta, which handles Royal Caribbean's international advertising, was unaffected by the review.
McKinney & Silver pitched with Western International Media, Los Angeles, and Media Partnership, Norwalk, Conn., while Harris Drury Cohen joined with Media Edge.
No creative assignments were affected. There was speculation early in the media review that it could lead to a shift in creative, denied by McKinney CEO Don Maurer.
Royal Caribbean officials also denied the creative assignments were being reviewed.
Contributing: Jeffery D. Zbar, Chuck Ross.