Royal Caribbean to Launch Global Creative Review

By Patrick Coffee 


Today we learned that cruise line Royal Caribbean will soon launch a review of its global creative account.

Royal Caribbean signed J. Walter Thompson as its global AOR and Mindshare as its media agency in December 2007, when the account was valued at $90 million; the WPP shops beat out a group of competitors from Publicis and IPG along with incumbent Arnold Worldwide.

The company’s decision to revisit the account does not seem to be based on business performance as income and earnings have increased consistently over the past several years. Media spending did drop recently, however: when Royal retained Mindshare as its new media marketing agency in 2011, Kantar reported the value of the deal, which included all subsidiary brands, to be $50-60 million; subsequent coverage noted that Royal’s total ad buy went from $69 million in 2011 to $59 million in 2012.

Economic factors aside, recent changes in the company’s leadership appear to have spurred the move. Longtime Royal Caribbean International chief Adam Goldstein was promoted to president/COO of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. in April 2014, and he began his tenure with a media tour designed to counteract bad press before initiating a round of executive promotions and layoffs. Last December, Goldstein named the former chief executive of Royal brand Celebrity Cruises as his replacement and said goodbye to SVP of marketing Carol Schuster after approximately 18 months; her position remains unfilled at present.

(Interesting side note: before launching her own consultancy and joining Royal Caribbean, Schuster spent nearly nine years with the Ogilvy organization, rising to the position of worldwide managing director/global brand management.)

While the client did not offer a comment after more than 24 hours of inquiries, a spokesperson responded with a statement minutes after this post went live:

“Royal Caribbean International will be conducting a review of its advertising agency partner relationships. As the world’s largest global cruise line, our success in building our business and our brand is dependent on staying ahead of the curve and continuing to drive innovation. We are conducting a comprehensive review of our brand marketing resources to meet the needs of the ever-changing marketing landscape.

The search is being handled internally and no additional agencies will be invited to participate at this time. The incumbent consumer brand agency, JWT, New York has been invited to participate in the review which is expected to conclude by May 2015.”

This move marks only the latest stage of Royal Caribbean’s “refresh”: back in June of 2014, the client announced a review of its UK-based digital/social media, and in October it chose Holler to run that account. JWT London officially remains UK creative AOR after winning the business in 2012, but that may change soon as the client also announced a UK creative review less than two weeks ago.

JWT’s New York office has consistently produced work for the client: a 2010 campaign won coverage on AdFreak while OOH promoting the “technologically advanced” Quantum of the Seas ship began running in Times Square and elsewhere several months ago. A 2013 campaign starring Kristin Chenoweth and other celebrities, however, was attributed to Mindshare and visual effects house Brewster Parsons.