Expansion at Royal Caribbean cruises prompted a move on to television.
Louella Miles reports on the direct marketing shop which kept the DRTV
work from the clutches of above-the-line
There was a time when a cruise conjured up images of the blue-rinse
brigade trying to escape from Britain’s chilly winters. But both the
ships and their passengers have changed. The US is setting the pace
today, but even in the UK, the age profile has dropped from 45- to 65-
year-olds to 35- to 55-year-olds, often with families.
There has been rapid growth, too, in the numbers of UK passengers - from
91,500 in 1986 to 352,000 in 1995 - sparked by the entry of Air Tours
and Thompson into the market, albeit at the lower end. The growth looks
set to continue, although not at the same pace.
And as the market place changed, so the means of reaching audiences has
been forced to evolve. For the past two years, for example, Anderson
Revill Communications, now part of the Osprey Group, has been handling
direct marketing - focusing on past passengers - for Royal Caribbean,
one of the big four cruise lines.
But this year it turned its attention to prospecting, a difficult task
when potential punters are often put off by price, even though operators
insist that the deals represent good value for money.
This strategy change was also driven by the fact that Royal Caribbean,
responding to customer demand, had embarked on a massive expansion
programme and commissioned the building of six 70,000-tonne super ships
- leaving it with a large number of berths to fill.
The Caribbean isn’t the only destination. Liners often spend the summer
in Europe before heading back to base, or even venturing to Mexico and
Alaska. This sort of flexibility appeals to UK customers, who find that
starting their holidays in Harwich instead of flying to Miami cuts down
Spearheading its spring campaign, the company’s pounds 225m ship
Splendour of the Seas docked in Southampton in March. The agency began
by sending out an illustrated colour mailing to all prospects within
travelling distance, to try to get them on board. Its next task took the
proposition a step forward with a mailing to promote the latest
brochure, offering discounts for early booking and entry into a prize
draw. At 10% and 20% respectively, both campaigns generated results way
By this time, mid-year, above-the-line advertising through a separate
agency had broken, but was not generating the response expected. ‘We
knew that the client was looking at other areas of response generation
to take up the extra capacity and was interested in going on TV,’ says
creative director, Norman Revill.
And when Royal Caribbean told him it wished to change advertising
agencies and asked for advice in drawing up a shortlist? ‘We asked: ‘How
about using us in a different way before going out in the market
It worked. The agency got the go-ahead. But while the biggest snag was
the small production budget - after all, this was essentially a trial -
good fortune smiled in other ways. First, Revill had just been out to
Royal Caribbean’s Miami HQ and had seen the latest US ads, complete with
excellent footage of the Monarch of the Seas.
Second, the agency had a media-buying expert in Ken Williams, and third,
it was in contact with TV production house KSA, one of the few companies
in London with a computer-controlled rostrum camera which is able to
track across 35mm slides to give the sensation of movement.
This combination of factors meant that the agency, using a mixture of
stock footage and slides, could pull together a sample 40-second and
ten-second DRTV campaign within four working days, backed by a series of
small, black and white press ads with telephone response mechanism. The
theme used throughout was ‘We treat you like royalty’.
The reaction from the client was encouraging, but cautious. ‘He said :
‘OK, we like it, but don’t get carried away, we still want an
advertising agency’. They sent it off to Miami and the people said fine,
so we made the commercial,’ says Revill.
‘I think it demonstrates that a direct marketing agency can produce DRTV
at competitive rates and can apply what we have learnt in a number of
products and services,’ says managing director Lawrence Anderson. ‘We
believe we have done pioneering work here.’
‘It was great advertising, cheaply produced, but without looking cheap,’
explains Pete Williams, sales and marketing manager for Royal Caribbean
UK and Ireland. ‘It all fell into line with what we are doing in the US,
where we are screening 30-minute infomercials, working with retail
partners. The cost per response was staggeringly lower than traditional
off-the-page advertising. The acid test, of course, is in how many
The campaign appeared on Sky, UK Gold, UK Living, Ireland and on ITV in
the Grampian region over three weeks through August and September.
‘We often placed the ad in unfashionable programmes,’ says Anderson.
‘When people get bored, they are more likely to go to the phone and dial
up. We also tried to set up a capacity for 50-100 lines inbound to cope
with the response and had a maximum of one unanswered call per spot.’
‘There are a few critical factors from an overall planning point of
view,’ says Revill. ‘The telephone number has to be clear and on screen
for a certain amount of time and repeated in the voiceover to get a
higher response, for example. You also need to have someone with a
background in buying for DRTV.’
The Royal Caribbean campaign met all these criteria and the results are
still coming in. And while Williams is still intent on appointing an
above-the-line agency in the next few weeks, he says of this first
voyage into the unknown waters of DRTV: ‘It is certainly something I
would like to do again.’