Five finalists have emerged in the ongoing review for Celebrity Cruises' $20-30 million marketing account.
The contenders are: Atlanta incumbent WestWayne; DraftWorldwide, Chicago; Digitas, Boston; Rapp Collins, Dallas; andWunderman, New York.
Direct marketing expertise, sources said, will be a critical factor in selecting a winner. Final presentations, an assignment built around a predetermined positioning statement ("A touch above"), are under way. A decision is expected later this month.
The review was triggered essentially by a decision "to consolidate all marketing functions within a single agency," said WestWayne president Jeff Johnson.
Currently, WestWayne's Miami office handles advertising, collateral and direct marketing chores. The Media Edge in New York runs media planning and buying. Yamamoto Moss in Minneapolis is responsible for interactive work.
Ad spending declined from $30 million in 1999 to about $20 million in 2000, per CMR. This year media expenditures topped $15 million by July 1.
Other factors, sources said, are driving the agency search. The most recent is a merger between U.K.-based P&O Princess Cruises and Celebrity parent Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, the No. 2 and No. 3 packagers, respectively, behind industry leader Carnival.
A management shift at Royal Caribbean elevated Jack Williams to president of both lines, and landed Ares Michaelides, former senior vice president of finance, in the top marketing slot.
Finally, a dramatic decline in travel and tourism business since Sept. 11 has rocked the industry.
Michaelides, who was traveling, did not return calls by press time.
"At this point all the details of the merger have not been communicated to anyone," said an agency source. "They say the plan is to keep the lines separate, so it should not affect the account short term."
Together, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean operate 22 ships. An additional seven vessels are under construction.