Mayer Reclaims Longtime Delta Queen Business

Shop snagged account with focus on 50- to 65-year-olds

Peter A. Mayer Advertising walked away from the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. two years ago as the client went through a management change. But the shop kept its eye on what had been its largest client as the company went into and then emerged from bankruptcy under new owners, which last month awarded Mayer the account following a review.

“We knew in our hearts we’d work for this company again, and we did.” said creative director Josh Mayer.

The New Orleans shop first won the account in 1986 when the budget was $1 million and Mayer had 25 staffers. Mayer held the business until 2001, when it was the 90-person shop’s biggest account, at about $10 million.

“[Delta Queen] was sort of like a baby we had helped raise,” said management supervisor David Crane.

Two years ago, the client’s management changed, and the account was put in review as the headquarters shifted from New Orleans to Miami.

Mayer declined to take part. “We knew they were relocating and would have no presence from a marketing standpoint in New Orleans, and we weren’t comfortable with where it was going,” Crane said.

The client, which offers cruises up the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois and Tennessee rivers, filed for bankruptcy in October 2001. When Delaware North Cos. won the bid for the assets in 2002, the shop introduced itself, Crane said. Soon after, new client president Rick Abramson put the $10 million account in play and invited Mayer.

Mayer bested incumbent GodwinGroup, Jackson, Miss.; Mullen, Pittsburgh; and the team of Logan Marketing, New Orleans, and J. Walter Thompson, Atlanta, Abramson said.

Mayer pitched an appeal to people ages 50-65. Previous ads focused on adults over 65, but the average passenger’s age last year crept up to 73. “We said that the company in 10 years is going to be in trouble,” Crane said.

While past work touted the boats as a destination, Mayer’s fall campaign will focus on where the boats travel and the overall experience. “For younger seniors, it’s more about experiences that they collect, and we want to be one more grand experience they will want to collect,” said Josh Mayer.

Oivind Mathisen, editor of Cruise Industry News, said that while Delta Queen’s positioning is consistent with competitors’ efforts to reach younger passengers, its boats are not big enough to offer sports such as rock climbing or basketball like those of Royal Caribbean. Delta Queen must compensate by offering more active shore excursions, Mathisen said.

Mayer also plans to promote the boats’ Americana. “If we communicate who we are, we don’t need to hit them over the head and say, ‘You should go with us because things are terrible overseas,’ ” Crane said.

The client would not divulge its ridership but said it aims to have its three boats 80 percent booked by year’s end, at about 40,000 passengers, and 90 percent or more next year.