Travel co bucks ad spend trend and goes big

Cruise vacation website gets great deal on current ad campaign.

With its first major ad campaign, cruise vacation booking site hopes to entice flip-floppers – people who normally flop onto a beach for their vacation – into taking a cruise instead.

Launched yesterday, the marketing blitz features about 200 billboards across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), 30-second radio ads airing on mainstream stations and online search and display ads as part of a plan helmed by Good Wood Media to drive chilled consumers online to book a cruise.

‘It’s a multi-platform – offline and online – campaign,’ says Stuart MacDonald, president and CEO of ‘It’s a significant investment for us, and we’re very excited about it.’

In the face of tightening marketing budgets, the campaign may come as a surprise to some, but MacDonald says this is actually a great time to buy advertising. ‘We got bonus billboards and price reductions in the radio advertising as well as bonus placements,’ he says.

The concept for the radio ads, produced by Pirate Toronto, was to create a soundscape that emulated a beach and then, with the sound of a cruise horn, reveal that it was a actually a cruise ship, says Tom Gowdy, a director and partner at Pirate.

Meanwhile, the mnemonic persuasion of a few keystrokes leads listeners to the site, which is also community-driven. There, they can take a quiz to learn their cruise personality, upload photos of their trip and read an adventure blog written by Commodore Dave. ‘We want it to be like a really good house party where people can talk about cruises,’ says MacDonald.

The average cruiser is 43 years old, and as Toronto is the major market in Canada for cruises, the target is GTA couples 35 years and older. MacDonald refers to this time of year as wave season, as it’s when most travellers plan their cruises for the upcoming winter and summer months. It’s the first winter for Tripharbour, which launched about eight months ago.

Canadians are still big vacationers, and cruises appeal to those interested in a value vacation. ‘You can pre-pay for a cruise which includes accommodation, meals, entertainment and transportation, visit a number of the capitols of Europe and never have to worry about how you’re going to get between them,’ MacDonald explains.

While some may be cutting vacations from their annual budget, Gowdy says low-priced cruises should be an easy sell to vacationers of all ages. ‘When it comes to travel, sensibilities are almost universal. I’m older than [35], and I found their premise and their reasoning to be very sound,’ he concludes.