Cruise Line Says, ‘Whatever’

DALLAS Launching its first major brand campaign in a decade, Norwegian Cruise Line today presented work from its agency GSD&M built around the theme “Freestyle Cruising.”

The campaign includes two 30-second TV spots and several 15-second ads to run on network and cable television. Eight print spreads will appear in newspapers and more than 20 national consumer and trade magazines. Other elements include a new Web site, direct mail, outdoor and onboard advertising. NCL will also sponsor weather and traffic reports on New York area radio stations.

The client spent more than $30 million on ads last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus, and it plans to increase spending in 2006 and 2007, though officials would not give an exact figure. Sources said measured media spending could top $100 million next year.

The ads breaking Oct. 2 promote a less structured, more relaxed, resort-style experience than traditional cruising, the client said. Targeting non-conformists, the ads pitch NCL’s policy of no fixed dining times at up to 10 different restaurants, no formal dress codes, relaxed disembarkation and more choices of entertainment.

Copy lines in the print ads include “Our dress code: wear something” and “Dinner will be served promptly at whatever o’clock.”

“Our challenge was to bring to life the feeling of complete freedom a guest feels on an NCL cruise in every aspect of the brand experience,” said Roy Spence, president of GSD&M, an Omnicom Group agency in Austin, Texas. “We created one unified look and feel that extends beyond advertising and surrounds consumers before, during and after their cruise.”

To illustrate NCL’s unconventional approach to cruise ship travel, a graphic depicts a white fish swimming amid a school of blue fish.

The TV commercials were directed by Gerard de Thame and choreographed by Vincent Paterson.

One of the 30-second spots, “Watches,” opens with regimented vacationers sunbathing, playing shuffleboard and dining in unison, checking their watches persistently to keep on schedule. Then the images switch to illustrate NCL’s Freestyle Cruising, with passengers relaxing and enjoying themselves according to their whims.

The ads conclude with the “Where you’re free to whatever” tagline and the animated fish graphic.

NCL’s research shows that people attracted to Freestyle Cruising see themselves as individualists in a world dominated by conformity. NCL guests want to enjoy their cruise on their terms without the structure and regimentation that is still the central feature of traditional cruises, said Andy Stuart, executive vice president of sales, marketing and passenger services.

Based in Miami, NCL plans to spend nearly $3 billion building three ships by 2011.

“With all of our new ships purpose-built for Freestyle Cruising and deployed in all major cruise destinations and our NCL America fleet now fully in place, the time is right to build large-scale consumer awareness through a major brand identity initiative,” Stuart said.