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Celebrity Cruises in Play

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BOSTON Celebrity Cruises has confirmed launching a review of its estimated $30 million ad account, which has been held by Havas' Arnold here since 2002.

A client representative offered no further information, and Arnold executives declined comment.

Sources said Arnold is defending. Other contenders could not immediately be determined.

Celebrity spent $15 million on ads through September after an outlay of slightly less than $30 million last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The review has entered the final stages, and a decision is expected within two weeks, per sources.

Arnold's most recent work included broadcast and print ads touting the cruise line's ability to make passengers feel like celebrities.

Sources cited creative dissatisfaction as a key review driver.

Celebrity is a unit of Miami-based Royal Caribbean, which also works with Arnold. The Royal Caribbean brand spent $75 million in measured media in 2005 and more than $60 million in the first three quarters of this year, per Nielsen.

Royal Caribbean ranks as the No. 2 cruise company, trailing Carnival Corp. The entire industry has been hurt by rising fuel costs, and Royal Caribbean saw its third-quarter net income slip 8 percent to $345 million, though its revenue rose 9 percent to $1.65 billion, compared to the same period last year.

Celebrity operates nine ships that sail to the Caribbean, Europe, the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, South America, Alaska, Bermuda, California and the Panama Canal.

Arnold last Friday confirmed cutting 40 staffers, or about 5 percent of its staff, but agency CEO Fran Kelly said the layoffs were in large part designed to boost efficiency and did not stem from any specific client cutbacks or losses [Adweek Online, Nov. 17].

Since losing its marquee $400 million Volkswagen of America account in 2005 to Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Arnold has turned in a mixed performance.

This year, it has won business from Progressive Direct ($150 million), Lee Jeans ($30 million) and Trex ($10 million), though it came up short in reviews for Heineken, H&R Block and Panasonic, among others.