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Cruise line aims at vacationers tired of snow

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Cruise Ship Campaign Aims at Vacationers Tired of Snow


FOLLOWING in the footsteps of companies like Campbell Soup, the cruise line Royal Caribbean International is introducing a multimedia advertising campaign that will run in certain markets only when the weather is cold or snowy.

For the first time this last fall, the Weather Channel began offering national advertisers the option of running customized commercials in local markets based on changes in weather conditions or on regional preferences. Campbell Soup, LG Electronics and Pinnacle Foods were among the advertisers that responded. Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing organization, will run a weather-triggered campaign on the Weather Channel from Jan. 10 through March 13 in markets where it is snowing or the temperature dips to 32 degrees or below.

Royal Caribbean International, one of two cruise lines operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises, is using a similar approach for its campaign, which begins Saturday on local TV stations in New York, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia. According to Dan Hanrahan, senior vice president for marketing and sales at Royal Caribbean International, these four cities generate one-fourth of the unit's total annual bookings. The ads are part of a larger national campaign by Royal Caribbean International that began yesterday and runs through March 20. Royal Caribbean's agency is Arnold Worldwide in Boston, part of the Arnold Worldwide Partners division of Havas.

The national television commercial - which is running on network programs like "The Today Show," "Late Show With David Letterman" and "Alias," and on cable channels like Discovery, Animal Planet and BBC America - will also run during local stations' weather forecasts in the four cities when there is a major snow or ice storm. Royal Caribbean has instructed the local stations to broadcast the ads when special storm coverage begins. It has reserved time with the stations in advance and will pay for it as needed.

The commercial shows people bundled up and standing outside in snow and sleet, then switches to pictures of people on a cruise vacation participating in outdoor sports. A voice-over says, "Wouldn't it be nice to actually see your friends this winter? What are you waiting for? Check out royalcaribbean.com and get out there!"

Similar advertising will appear on video screens in office-building elevators in Boston, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia during bad weather in January and February.

Royal Caribbean is also running banner advertisements on AOL's travel area, AccuWeather.com Weather.com and Weatherbug.com. The banners appear automatically on pages with forecasts for New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston when there are three or more inches of snow or icy conditions in those cities or the temperature falls to 20 degrees or below. Illustrated with photos that recall the commercials, the ads say, "You can wait for warm weather or go find it. Get started now." Clicking on the advertisements takes Web surfers to Royal Caribbean's Web site.

Mr. Hanrahan said Royal Caribbean would spend $10 million on television advertising in the first quarter of 2005, one-tenth of which will be devoted to local, weather-triggered TV commercials. He said this was an increase over expenditures in the first quarter of 2004, but declined to quantify the increase. Royal Caribbean's budget will allow it to advertise on local television if there are three or four major storms in each of the four cities, Mr. Hanrahan said. If weather conditions are mild, Royal Caribbean will reconsider in late January how to deploy the local campaigns.

Jay Williams, managing partner at Arnold Worldwide, said, "In this day and age, we try to connect the brand with people, have it pop up some place a little closer to daily life. It helps forge a more personal connection between the consumer and the brand."

Royal Caribbean's targeted and localized marketing strategy won praise from financial analysts. Steven E. Kent, who follows Royal Caribbean Cruises for Goldman Sachs, said it was "very clever" for Royal Caribbean International to run ads "perfectly timed to when customers are most in need of a cruise."

Mr. Kent noted that Royal Caribbean's local and national campaigns would run during the first quarter when 35 percent of all cruise bookings are made. "The weather then causes people to think they want to go on vacation, or to think about what they want to do over the summer for their vacation," he said.

Robert Simonson, a cruise industry analyst for William Blair & Company in Chicago, said Royal Caribbean's campaign was a smart way to "stay in front of people" next year, when it will introduce no new ships.

"Royal Caribbean doesn't have anything coming into service in 2005," Mr. Simonson said. "What they don't want to do is to recede into the background. The ad campaign is their attempt to bring their voice back up."

Jim Nail, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said localized, weather-triggered advertising was part of a larger trend in marketing. "You're seeing the end of the era of mass marketing," he said. "Nobody can afford it anymore, and consumers are overloaded with messages."

Mr. Nail predicted the new ads would work. "Who doesn't have those thoughts - 'I gotta get out of here' - when they've fought their way through snow, ice and cold to get somewhere?"

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