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Carnival's new theme

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Carnival floats a new theme of a 'million ways to have fun'

by Jeffery D. Zbar, Special to the Sun-Sentinel

Carnival Cruise Lines has launched a new ad campaign that subtly yet significantly polishes its brand.

Once marketed simply as the "Fun Ships," with high-energy imagery or computer animation, Carnival has refined its services and amenities as other cruise lines have grown more popular and the cruise industry has grown more competitive.

Moreover, for the first time ever, the company conducted intensive research and a series of national focus groups to learn what past and potential cruise passengers thought of the brand. What the executives learned was that news of their refinements wasn't getting out to potential guests.

So the line ditched its old campaigns and created an all-new marketing look and feel. The resulting multimillion-dollar print and broadcast ad campaign, from longtime lead agency Cooper DDB in Coral Gables, is both active and subdued.

The ads focus on upgrades and product enhancements in such areas as food and dining, entertainment, service standards, on-board programming, shore excursions and in-cabin amenities. The goal of the campaign is to change the perception of those who either haven't sailed on a Carnival ship, or haven't done so in years, said Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales and marketing with the Miami cruise line.

Research also revealed that consumers preferred a slower pacing to the ads, and more images of shipboard and excursion activities, she said. Freed called them "Carnival magic moments."

"This is what consumers wanted in a commercial," Freed said. "We thought our other commercials were great with the [beach Boys'] Fun, Fun, Fun music. But people asked us, `What does driving in your daddy's T-Bird have to do with taking a cruise?'"

Each new ad uses the tagline, "There are a million ways to have fun." The four separate television commercials and a variety of consumer magazine ads will be released over the next month. The TV ads are entitled "Couple," "Family" and two versions of a spot, "Active Couple." All are set to the classic Bobby Darin song, Beyond the Sea. The soft pace of the song juxtaposes the active imagery.

Each spot features guests enjoying various aspects of a Carnival cruise. "Family," for instance, shows parents relaxing in a whirlpool, the kids sliding down a corkscrew waterslide, and the entire family playing with dolphins during a shore excursion. "Active Couple" shows a husband and wife on the jogging track, in the gym, and gliding on a wire suspended above a Jamaican forest.

As each spot ends, the last picture withdraws into a mosaic-like image of a cruise ship. Each tile in the mosaic is a picture of something to do on a Carnival cruise. The voiceover goes, "On a Carnival cruise, at any one moment, there are a million ways to have fun."

In a media buy that represents the largest such purchase in the company's history, some 6,400 spots are expected to air over the course of 2005. They will be shown on such shows as 24, The West Wing, Gilmore Girls, Law & Order, The O.C., and Amazing Race. Cable channel placements include A&E, The Discovery Channel, TNT, HGTV, Bravo, The Travel Channel, VH1, Fine Living and Food Network. Budgets were not revealed.

Print ads also feature a Carnival ship built of mosaic-style imagery. The application is similar to the mosaic visuals formerly used by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau in its tourism ads. Carnival's print ads will appear in consumer magazines Oprah, Real Simple, More, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, Cooking Light, Condé Nast Traveler, Vanity Fair, and People. The mosaic style of the print campaign also is being used in Carnival's brochures and marketing materials.

The ads reveal Carnival's efforts to reinforce its position as a leader in the cruise industry, said Bill Panoff, publisher and editor-in-chief of Porthole Cruise Magazine, a Fort Lauderdale publication for cruise enthusiasts. Panoff's company, The PPI Group, also publishes other periodicals distributed for free aboard cruise ships, including Carnival's.

Panoff believes Carnival's message to readers and viewers is that, "There's a Fun Ship out there for everyone."

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