Saturday Morning TV: Carnival - Not Cartoons

TV is the thing this year

TV is the thing this year

Radio was great but it’s out of date

TV is the thing this year.

Those lyrics are from a 1953 Dinah Washington song (warning: it’s rich in double entendre) and, guess what, for all the digital frenzy, TV is sometimes still the thing for travel marketers who see the medium as a tool that can be incomparably powerful in the right situations. 

One of those marketers is Carnival Corporation, the mega-cruise company that operates many brands including Carnival, Cunard, Princess and Holland America and which recently launched three original television programs airing on broadcast networks on Saturday mornings. The three shows (with more promised) air on ABC, NBC and The CW with almost 80 original episodes set to rotate over the next year. Each of the company’s 10 brands is featured in at least one of the episodes during the inaugural season.



The three shows are “Ocean Treks With Jeff Corwin” with Corwin traveling to Carnival destinations and flight-seeing, mountain climbing, ziplining, etc.; “The Voyager” with Josh Garcia on NBC which follows Garcia as he visits ports of call; and Vacation Creation, which personalizes vacations of a lifetime for people facing hardships. All three programs run for 30 minutes per episode. Of course, while TV is the thing, the shows will be extended to digital platforms. It’s still 2016. 

If you thought Saturday morning was all about cartoons for kids, think again. John Padgett, with the very contemporary title of chief experience and innovation officer for Carnival, said two of the shows are number one or two in 46 markets with the third in the top five – all told a viewership of 4 million consumers a week mostly comprised of families watching together. 

Although Padgett emphasized that these are not fully paid infomercials and that there are other advertisers on the shows, this clearly represents a major financial commitment for Carnival. But Padgett said the initiative is necessarily ambitious because it has the challenging goal of changing the very perception of a product that, while it has grown dramatically, represents a tiny fraction of leisure travel. 

Padgett said that most cruise marketing stubbornly maintains its traditional form, but these shows “are about experiential media where we authentically communicate the experience guests will have. We need to change the perception of cruising and show what those experiences are really like. It’s not just ‘we have a roller coaster on our ship’ – it’s making sure consumers see the amazing value you get out of a cruise destination and what it can mean to you as a family or a group that is priceless.”

“We do not have a Saturday morning TV strategy,” Padgett stressed; “we have an experiential media strategy.”

This is also a breakthrough campaign, said Padgett, because it’s the first time Carnival is marketing its entire portfolio of brands rather than promoting each brand separately.

“As long as more people cruise,” said Padgett,” we will get or fair share. If our competitors get more share, we still don’t lose because it means increased demand and pricing power.”

Early results are impressive; after the first month:

  *   50% of consumers who said they would not consider Carnival, Holland America and Princess cruise brands would now consider these brands (after having watched the shows).

  *   60% of consumers had a more favorable brand perception of the brands.

  *   50% of consumers that fell outside “cruise intender” interest levels were converted into “cruise intender” interest levels.

Bottom line from Padgett: “Expanding the market for cruising is the holy grail, but this is a big break from the way we have communicated in the past. We are focused on creating great content that everyone will love and distribute it in the best way we can.”

Which, in this case: means TV is the thing.

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