Royal Caribbean International is reviewing its global creative agency business, with a decision expected by May.
Incumbent J. Walter Thompson will defend. Media, handled by the agency's WPP corporate sibling, Mindshare, is not part of the current search process. The review, which is being managed internally, is said to be in early stages.
In the first nine months of 2014, Royal Caribbean spent $58 million in measured media, according to Kantar. For all of 2013, the brand invested $81 million.
The world's biggest cruise line has recently undergone major management changes that may have impacted its working relationship with JWT. In December, Michael Bayley, chief of sister company Celebrity Cruises, took over Royal Caribbean as CEO. The company also parted ways with marketing svp Carol Schuster, who took on that role in June 2013. That job remains open.
JWT declined to comment, referring calls to the client who confirmed the search process. The agency has been the lead creative shop on the business since 2007, when it won the account after prevailing in a review that included shops like Saatchi & Saatchi, TBWA\Chiat\Day and what was then Draftfcb. Arnold was the incumbent, and sister Havas shop MPG handled Royal Caribbean media, which also shifted at that time.
The cruise industry still suffers from negative perceptions after disasters like Carnival's Costa Concordia crash in 2012, and Carnival Triumph's debacle a year later, when an onboard fire crippled the ship, leaving it without electricity and working toilets. While Royal Caribbean has not been as dramatically hit by misfortune, in early 2013, more than 100 passengers and crew on one of its ships reportedly fell ill from the norovirus.