Venables Bell & Partners Wins Celebrity Cruises

By Patrick Coffee Comment

UPDATE: The morning after we ran this post, the agency confirmed the story with a press release.

From agency founder and chairman Paul Venables:

“Celebrity is a brand whose time is now. They have the product, they have passionate leadership, and they have a hunger to change the industry. They are 100 percent our kind of clients.”

The client’s CEO writes:

“Not only will the [VB&P] team help us break away from the norm with their exemplary strategic thinking and big, creative ideas, but our shared passion for delivering amazing results will help tell Celebrity’s modern luxury story in fresh, compelling ways and ensure our brand continues to rise to the top of the luxury/premium category.”

Parent company Royal Caribbean has not yet responded to our requests for comment, but sources close to the matter can confirm that its sister brand Celebrity Cruises has chosen San Francisco’s Venables Bell & Partners as its new creative agency of record after a review.

The battle ultimately came down to Venables and MUH-TAY-ZIK HOF-FER, with VB&P emerging victorious this week.

Back in July, the client confirmed that it would hold a separate review two months after its parent company went with the newly-renamed Mullen Lowe for creative and Mediahub for media (the former account had been with J. Walter Thompson for almost eight years).

This review and the Royal Caribbean competition that preceded it followed a familiar pattern: former RC International chief Adam Goldstein was promoted to run the entire organization in 2014, and Celebrity CEO Michael Bayley stepped up to take his place at RCI as former Celebrity EVP of operations Lisa Lutoff-Perlo replaced Bayley atop the sister organization. Celebrity most recently scored headlines for naming longtime Royal Caribbean employee Kate McCue as the first American female cruise ship captain.

Celebrity has not had a creative AOR for several years. Its business was with Arnold before the 2007 review that sent Royal Caribbean to JWT, and the client worked with Omnicom’s Element79 for a period before dropping that shop and relying on its own in-house marketing team. For that reason, the nature of future campaigns and the size of the client’s spend cannot be predicted at this time–though the larger Royal Caribbean organization did spend $20 million marketing Celebrity in 2009, the last year for which Kantar Media has related data. The very fact that Celebrity held a review in the first place implies that it plans to boost its marketing efforts in the interest of becoming more of a household name like its parent company (which owns six different travel brands).

So we have no idea what sort of work VB&P will produce, though we hear that the indie shop’s intentions are good. (Its most recent big-name win was Adidas Golf, which it swiped from Kastner & Partners in July.)

It’s also unclear at the moment whether Celebrity will follow its parent company in launching a subsequent media agency review. But everyone else is doing it…

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