Carnvial Cruise Lines–Postcards from the Nation of Land-Locked…But Then Again…Why Not?

Predictable Versus Provocative
In all walks of life, creative people often have an inherent bias against the familiar. To fall into an old mold seems to be a cop-out. While it’s true that history often honors revolutionaries, there is still something to be said for tried-and-true methods as well. The predictable approach will often bring predictable results, the cutting-edge approach will provoke a deeper response in an audience, but  the results can range anywhere from poor to unprecedented.

The Traditional Template

We’ve seen the cruise line commercials. Lots of shots of the boat, lots of talk about how many millions of things we can do while on one of their boats, a list of exotic ports of call, and maybe some mention of a promotional deal to save us a few bucks. There are, of course, a thousand different spins to put on this template, but that’s more or less the meat of it.

Beach Balls in Dallas

And then a major cruise line goes to a land-locked metropolis and drops the world’s largest beachball onto a  a downtown street. CRASH! There goes the template, and the spectacle has people smiling and crowding around to get in on the fun. All brought to you by Carnival Cruise Lines, where they’re about having fun and doing big, unexpected things.

This is not just a commercial, by the way. Carnival actually staged this stunt (along with others).  I’m sure it was excellent local PR for them, I’m sure they got lots of free airtime in the form of news coverage. (CBS picked it up, albeit as raw video). It was a great idea, but did it make a great commercial?

Production Notes and “Professional” Analysis

First, a few production notes:

Casting: I’m pretty sure they used people who were on the street at the moment (though I’m sure they had video releases signed). The camera crew did a great job to capture people’s reactions to the audacious stunt.

Slogan: “Fun for All, All for Fun.”

It’s a bit corny, but fairly memorable and meaningful.

Foghorn/Logo Out:

Love it !

So here’s my professional critique…I don’t know.

I just can’t help but feeling that this commercial was kind of an afterthought to the obviously very successful live event in Dallas. The video itself is compelling, even though we don’t see any ships or hear anything about their cruises. If the video had managed to go viral, I think they may have had more success with using those clips as an ad. Some preliminary YouTube research does return several videos of the event with 10-20,000 views each, but something as cool as three-story beach balls falling from buildings might have gotten more exposure than that if it hadn’t been seen first as an ad. Let’s face it, most people, aside from us communication geeks, don’t send non-Superbowl ads to each other or post them to YouTube.

What do you think about this spot? Do we need to see something about cruises in a cruise line commercial? Do we need some more information that this record attempt was real? Could we have done without the background music and just done natural sound to give it a more amateur feel? (Yes, I know “Bang on the Drum” is Carnival’s Theme).

Chime in below!

Punctuation in Texting and Social Media

In our first installment of Links to Make You Think, we have a blog post on the PRSAY site (an outreach of the Public Relations Society of America).

Here, PR professional Kathy Nelson Barbour sheds some light on emotional connotations of punctuation in texting and social media, and how those of us who still type complete, grammatically correct sentences in our Facebook updates can engage the younger Social Media crowd.

Happy Reading!

A Period Means You’re Angry (and other Lessons Learned)

Saving One Mountain–A Better Approach to Saving the Earth?

Selling an intangible idea is a common, but nonetheless daunting, challenge for creative types in any industry. For example, the green marketing movement has little problem making products that are both environmentally friendly and save money attractive to potential buyers. (Though the next time I hear any variation of the “Go Green, Save Green” phrase, I’m calling the Commissar of Cliches and putting out a contract on that writer!)

But what about “Saving the Earth”? What does it mean? Are we saving it from pollution, greenhouse gases, resource exhaustion or another environmental nemesis? Are we appealing to the Environmentalists or the Conservationists? What about the guy next door that just wants clean air, clean water, and roadway shoulders free of trash? How do we get them to care about something that isn’t directly affecting them at the moment? Even harder, how do we get them to agree to increased costs in the name of the environment?

Enter the plight of Coal River Mountain (If you’ve watched Hulu in the past three months, I guarantee you’ve seen this spot).


The people behind this Coal River Wind project did an excellent job realizing that this situation affects very few people directly. The area in question is a very sparsely-populated area of West Virginia. So how did a small town create a campaign to save their mountain and make it relatable to thousands of people all over the world?


The first part of the ad follows a fairly common template–dramatic music, large white text, video of a countryside ravaged by mountaintop coal mining.

But then the otherwise-average spot grabs attention when a mountain goes up (or rather, down) in a pile of dust and debris. It seems a rather senseless destruction to those of us watching at home, but what can we do about it?

Help build a wind farm, save a mountain.

Not help save “the mountains” from “the coal company” from “eventual destruction,” but help save “this mountain, right now.”

Call to Action

The main shortcoming of this ad was the lack of a clear call to action. There was a website given at the end, but it was not on the screen for a very long time, and somewhat obscured by the logo. I visited the site and found it to be basic, but well organized. If the main goal of this campaign is action, however, I would recommend highlighting one specific step people could take (such as signing the online petition).If the point was simply making people aware and care, they’ve done their job well.

I’m not normally too given to environmental causes. Sometimes it seems to me that environmental action groups are the real “party of no,” focusing on what shouldn’t be done, instead of what should. Sometime they seem to react to a problem with solutions that present unintended consequences, and sometimes they try to make us care about a topic so big, so amorphous, that we just can’t wrap our mind around it. But despite my admitted self-bias, they have found a great, simple, focused way to reach me with this spot, and I congratulate them.

What improvements could be made to this spot? What would be a convenient, yet meaningful way for people to become involved?

Response Advertising–Airline Edition

Update–with the merger, the video is now private on Air Tran’s channel. Too bad–it was worth a laugh.

Traveling with an airline today means facing the complicated 2010 world of airport security and airline policies. Just a decade ago, we didn’t need to worry about bringing our coffee with us through security, we didn’t have to scan our shoes for explosives, and we didn’t have to wonder how much would be added to the cost of our ticket to bring our bags along.

As of a few weeks ago, every major airline in the United States has an additional charge for flying two bags (what used to be the standard free baggage allotment), except Dallas-based discount carrier Southwest, and thankfully, they have the marketing sense to make a big deal about it.

Previous spots in the “Bags Fly Free” campaign have featured a Southwest ramp agent driving a “bag train” around while an announcer asks “Why do other airlines hate your bags?” A more well-produced followup features more ramp agents standing by a plane talking about how they love bags. During this commercial, a jet flying for a regional partner of United Airlines taxis by, and one of the Southwest employees shouts “why do you charge for bags?” The logo of the other plane is blurred, but airline buffs quickly figured out who the spot was aimed at.

Fast forward to the new Southwest ad, where they decided to target rival discount airline AirTran. The barely-blurred effect is back for this commercial and the Southwest ramp agents let their competitor have it.

Click to play Southwest’s Ad

While United Airlines did not run an response to the question “why do you charge for bags?” (and, for that matter, break guitars), AirTran wasn’t going miss their opportunity to poke fun back at Southwest.

(For those unfamiliar with Southwest–a 30-second primer. Southwest does not use assigned seating on their airplanes, but rather assigns ticketholders as Zone A, B or C depending on the time they checked in. These zones then board the airplane in order, much like boarding by rows, except that you may sit anywhere you like on the plane. Sometimes this can lead to competitions for desirable window or aisle seats, and some in the industry derogatorily call Southwest’s boarding process a “cattle call”.)

Here’s Airtran’s response:

Both ads are relatively entertaining. Southwest made a bet that seeing “Bags Fly Free” painted on the chests of their employees would be a memorable way to get their main marketing point across. AirTran hopes that you will see the Southwest boarding process as chaotic and stressful. However, Air Tran does not address the baggage fee issues (perhaps because their first-bag fee of $15 is one of the lowest in the industry.) Also, AirTran’s ad only ran on the company’s website, unlike the Southwest ad which got extensive play during March Madness.

I’m going to have to give the Southwest spot the edge for effectiveness, but the AirTran spot wins in the entertainment department. It was a clever and well-played response, even if they did dodge the main issue.

What are some of the greatest response ads of all time? Have any gone on to become more famous than the spot they were responding too? What would you do as Southwest to respond to the “cattle call” jab?

iPad Print Ad–A Trip to the Hundred Acre Wood

Pooh iPad Ad

Click to View Larger Image

The Print Economy of Words

Effective use of the print medium requires the ability to explain the benefits of a product with as few words as possible. Bold, bright imagery that tells a story in two-dimensional space with a single sentence, single word, or just a logo is what makes a great print ad stand apart from a cluttered classified in a local newspaper.

The maxim about a picture being worth a thousand words may be a cliche, but the beauty of a storytelling image is that a picture is worth a different thousand words to each person who sees it. It is a theater of the mind, which is accentuated in this case by another iPad marketing tactic–ambiguity.

Look Into My Eyes…

We make a tremendous amount of assumptions about people based upon their appearance–and the most identifiable characteristic of appearance is one’s face. Apple has chosen to leave faces out of this series of iPad print ads, and in doing so, has managed to create the slightest amount of ambiguity that allows people to envision themselves as the person holding the iPad.

While faces are not shown, the unifying theme is people sitting with their legs up in a comfortable position. This leads us to believe that use of this product is relaxing and puts us in control. The message is–the iPad is a product that gives you more time and is easy to use. Or, from the horses mouth a “magical and revolutionary product.”


Shopping expert Paco Underhill, in his book Why We Buy, make the argument that when it comes to electronics, men shop and women buy. Men, he says, are likely to look at products they  may not need at the moment in order to get an idea of the features and specs are. Women tend to be more concerned with immediate needs and a specific functionality, rather than boasting about gigabytes, megapixels or RAM.

Some, however, believe that Apple has missed the mark when it comes to marketing to women. Avi and Michal Schick’s  suggest that the iPad ads they’ve encountered have a gendered and sexist overtone.


Overall, I think this is an example of a highly-respected national company showing that they know how to market. Edward Boches at Creativity Undbound believes that the excellent execution of the iPad print ads could bring a second life to the print advertising medium, as well as further innovation in image advertising.

Some Free Bonus Nonsense

OK, I can’t help myself. The serious commentary is over, but the irrepressible analytic in me has to chuckle at the Pooh passage which appears on the pictured iPad.

“It reminds me of something,” he said, “but I can’t think what.”

With 9 months since the iPad hit the market, we can still make fun of the inoppotune name a bit, can’t we?