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Norwegian Picks 5 Finalists

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Norwegian Cruise Line has cut to five finalists in a review of creative and media duties on its advertising account, sources said.

Sources identified the contenders as Interpublic Group units McCann Erickson in New York, The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., and Mullen in Boston, MDC Partners Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami and the incumbent, Omnicom Group’s GSD&M in Austin, Texas. The agencies either declined to comment or could not be reached.

Next week, client executives will brief the agencies. Agency work sessions are slated for late February and final presentations are scheduled for the second week of March, according to Norwegian’s initial request for proposal.

Major media spending on the brand has declined in recent years from more than $30 million in 2007 to about $20 million in 2008, and $13 million in 2009. The spending increased a bit to $16 million last year, according to Nielsen. Those figures exclude online.

In the RFP, the Miami-based Norwegian indicated a preference for an East Coast-based shop. The document also sought examples of past success at collaborating with multiple agencies, given that the cruise operator also employs shops for search media (Resolution Media), Web development (Sapient) and database management (Epsilon). Those assignments aren’t in play.

The review comes as Norwegian, in business since 1966, prepares for an initial public offering later this year. The company, now owned by Apollo Management, TPG Capital and Genting Hong Kong, also has ordered new ships that will increase its capacity by 30 percent in the next three years, according to the RFP.

Pile & Co. in Boston is managing the review. A Norwegian representative declined to comment and referred calls to Pile, which could not immediately be reached.