Skift Take

Celebrity Cruises recognizes that fear is bad for travel — and doesn't seem worried about rocking the boat with a politically charged ad.

When candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump face off Monday night at the first United States presidential debate of 2016, there will almost certainly be talk of building walls, strengthening borders, and controlling immigration.

After the 90-minute showdown, Celebrity Cruises will add its corporate voice to the conversation with a 30-second ad [below] that lands firmly in the anti-wall, pro-diversity camp.

“Far from the talk of building walls,” the voiceover says, “far from the threats of keeping people out, far from the rhetoric of fear is a world of differences.”

If that language sounds targeted to one specific candidate, that’s no mistake — but it’s also not the whole point.

“It’s in response to the rhetoric around the world,” Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises, told Skift. She named the Brexit vote, the rise of hate crimes in the UK, and the plight of refugees in France as examples.

Closest to home for the Miami-based cruise line — which gets the majority of its passengers from the United States — are the positions that Trump has taken, such as calling for the building of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and for ideological tests to be given to visitors.

“If people want to choose [to view] this statement as a political statement, I can’t control that,” Lutoff-Perlo said. She said she has thought about whether some potential passengers might be turned off by the spot, but she hasn’t worried about the possibility.

“I believe anybody that truly looks at this and says, ‘We’re not going to sail on Celebrity again,’ they’re probably not sailing on Celebrity,” she said. “I hope I get more people than I lose.”

Lutoff-Perlo continued: “Is there a risk? Sure. At some point in time you have to take a stand.”

The TV commercial will run nationally on ABC and CNN Monday, Tuesday, Oct. 9 (when the second presidential debate is scheduled), and Oct. 10. Full-page color ads will also run Tuesday in five newspapers including The New York Times, Washington Post, and San Francisco Chronicle, as well as in Architectural Digest in November. Ads are also appearing in the UK and Australia. San Francisco-based advertising agency Venables Bell & Partners created the campaign.

Using images of global landmarks — including the Sydney Opera House, Eiffel Tower, and Tower Bridge — melded into new landscapes, the TV ad praises the embrace of differences and the virtue of opening up to the world.

“What we do for a living is at risk when people choose not to experiences other cultures or travel,” Lutoff-Perlo said.

An announcement about the “Sail Beyond Borders” campaign points out that Celebrity visits 280 cities around the world and that crew members represent more than 50 cultures. The cruise line will highlight stories of some crew on its website as part of the messaging.

The campaign has been ready for months, Lutoff-Perlo said, but the company’s chief marketing officer Peter Giorgi — hired earlier this year from Airbnb — urged her to wait for the right time to launch it.

“He really wanted us to choose a cultural moment where it mattered and people would be paying attention,” she said.

“We’re in a time that’s unlike any in our history and we’re encouraging people to be fearless,” Giorgi said in a statement. “Sail Beyond Borders addresses the need to celebrate our differences, to participate in the world, to take a journey. And, as a global travel brand that exists to bring people from different countries together to experience every corner of the globe, it feels like the right time to speak up.”

In a post on Medium published Monday, Lutoff-Perlo wrote about her surprise that encouraging people to travel has become a political position.

“In this very unusual year, we chose to put those statements in our ads,” Lutoff-Perlo wrote. “Because we don’t believe that walls do anything but divide. And we do believe that you shouldn’t fear what is different — you should go see it. You shouldn’t draw back from those who are different — you should go meet them.”


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Tags: celebrity cruises, cruising, marketing, politics

Photo credit: A new campaign from Celebrity Cruises encourages travelers to "sail beyond borders." Celebrity Cruises

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