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Simple message delivers the word on cruising

Newspaper readers are an especially valuable audience for those advertising cruise holidays. With the tailored nature of the holidays demanding some detail, LANCE CLATWORTHY benchmarks two Cunard print ads that addressed this to different degrees.   In this Creative Benchmarking study, we have tested two advertisements for the same Cunard cruise holiday. The verdict: Both…

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Newspaper readers are an especially valuable audience for those advertising cruise holidays. With the tailored nature of the holidays demanding some detail, LANCE CLATWORTHY benchmarks two Cunard print ads that addressed this to different degrees.


In this Creative Benchmarking study, we have tested two advertisements for the same Cunard cruise holiday.

The verdict: Both ads performed strongly on brand equity and call to action metrics, but the less detailed creative delivered more word of mouth and more expressed interest.





Cunard Simple

239587 Icons of the Sea Stream 2.jpeg

With a seemingly dominant visual of cruise ships in mountainous scenery, the creative offers a 36 night cruise starting at $10,999 per person – Cunard invites you to discover the Baltics, Norwegian Fjords and a timeless transatlantic cruise to New York. The detail also reveals 2 nights in London and 3 nights in Southampton.

The ad leads with “Icons of the sea” with Imagine Cruising featuring in bigger profile than the two mentions of Cunard.

Having highlighted the core offer, the lower half of the advert effectively has three sections:-

  • 4 price points from $10,999 per person to $21,499 per person
  • A bullet point breakdown of the destinations for the 36 nights
  • A taste of the cruise holiday lifestyle – the gorgeous vista, white-gloved waiters and evening entertainments

The bottom of the ad includes a prompt to visit imaginecruising.com.au as a call to action.

Cunard Busy

239694 Icons of the Sea Stream 1.jpeg

This creative has a visual of three cruise ships in an open ocean with a lead slogan of “Icons of the sea” and it lets us know this text heavy layout is an advertisement. The ad also has 4 other images – a uniformed doorman, a couple enjoying a drink, the Statue of Liberty and London’s Big Ben.

Beneath the lead slogan, small text summarizes the holiday in more detail than in the simple execution – it embellishes the experience a little and includes a mention of London but does not display the base price in this part of the ad.

A third of the page has copy describing each of the destinations, the attractions of the destinations, the joys of being on a cruise ship and the appeal of the majestic ship’s décor.

The right hand side has a bullet point breakdown of the destinations for the 36 nights – it’s very much the same as in the simple execution, but the text heavy nature of the main ad means that this part has smaller text than in the simple version. It is also here that we see the base price of $10,999 per person, but there’s no mention of the 3 more expensive options.

As a brand, “Cunard” has very little mention or profile in this execution. And, as with the simple ad, Imagine Cruising does feature along with a call to visit imaginecruising.com.au. However, this ad also includes a telephone number, prompting the reader to call and book now. The simple ad does not have this latter call to action.

Strategic RoleMap

Six strategic advertising roles of newspapers have been validated both qualitatively and quantitatively by NewsMediaWorks, resulting in the creation of RoleMap. 



On the affinity metric, both ads performed significantly better than the average for all newspaper ads (9%); Simple (22%) and Busy (29%) both stand out on giving a good feeling about the brand.

“I feel like it’s luxurious – it’s a premium brand and nicely put together,” said one respondent about the Simple ad.

“I think it looks like a great experience,” said another.

“Reputation counts and Cunard is a highly respected company,” said a respondent of the Busy ad.

“More luxurious than other cruises,” said another.

In terms of other Strategic role metrics, both ads performed to norm, but Simple did also perform strongly with 18 per cent saying the ad makes them feel differently about the brand.


Newspapers are recognised as an effective medium for delivering a Call to Action. ActionMap, another proprietary newspaper metric, expands on this strategic role to provide an understanding of the types of action a newspaper ad inspires. 


On 5 out of 8 Action metrics, both ads performed significantly better than the benchmark norms for all newspaper ads.

Compared to a norm of 10 per cent, both ads scored a high 20 per cent for searching online for more information. Likewise, both ads doubled the norm of 13 per cent for trying to remember the ad – Simple scored 25 per cent while Busy scored 26 per cent.

However, against a norm of 3 per cent, Simple (14%) and Busy (12%) were especially strong on tearing out and keeping the ad.

“I feel like I want to go to the website or find more information,“ said one respondent of the Simple ad.

“The deal seemed very reasonable but I would need to get more information (inclusions/exclusions) to verify that,” said another.

“I think I will look into this now,” said a respondent referring to the Busy ad.

For the Busy ad, a significant 5 per cent said they would make a call to find out more, whereas Simple matched the benchmark of 2 per cent. The simple execution would have benefited if it had featured the free phone number that was displayed in the Busy ad.

In terms of word of mouth, as a benchmark 10 per cent say they would mention an ad to a friend or relative. The Simple ad that performed well on this metric at 20 per cent. It’s not easy to call the winner on these two ads, but it’s this metric that arguably wins it for the Simple execution, especially when we see how many commented that they would like to find out more about the ad. As a comparison, when invited to comment on the ads, Busy prompted more comments about the amount of text rather than mentioning interest.

As a note, the above figures compare to the fact that 11 per cent of news media readers intend to take a cruise in the next 12 months (emma March 2017).


Brand Perceptions


Both ads doubled the benchmark score for each of the three metrics on brand equity. The chart above shows how they performed similarly well on the metrics of improved familiarity/understanding, brand appropriate and seems different.

“I think it’s a great ad, informative and attractive,” said one person referring to the Simple ad.

“Bright, offering excitement and a good value holiday,” said another referring to the Busy ad.

Creative Diagnostics

This NewsMediaWorks’ proprietary newspaper metric, provides a set of creative diagnostics unique to the attributes of newspaper advertising.  They’ve been developed to help identify areas for improvement where results across other brand and advertising measures may require further analysis and interrogation.


For creative execution, each add performed significantly well on three of the metrics with the notable difference that Busy also scored high on too much information (37%) and cluttered (30%) – the latter two scores were three times more than the norm for all newspaper ads.

“It’s eye catching and the image is beautiful but it’s more like an article than an ad – I wouldn’t read that much text for an ad,” said one referring to the Busy ad.

“There was just too much writing and therefore it was daunting,” was also said.

“Too much information which may be better to be in their website,” was expressed as a possible improvement for the Busy ad.

So, what metrics did they perform significantly well on? For “Looks good”, Simple (36%) and Busy (38%) performed similarly, while the same can be said for “Headline made me want to stop and read more” with Simple at 32 per cent and Busy at 29 per cent.

“An attractive advert – made me want to read down to the bottom. Great image,” commented one respondent about the Simple ad.

“It’s a great ad.  It caught my eye and my interest as I love to go on cruise holidays,” commented another.

The positive creative diagnostics that separated the two creatives were “Easy to see what’s on offer” which scored 45 per cent for Simple and “Catches the eye” which scored 37 percent for Busy.


Cunard Simple

A successful ad that performed above benchmark on brand equity metrics, affinity and thinking differently about the brand. Creative execution scored well for looking good and for making it easy to see what’s on offer. The ad also delivered on call to action metrics including mentioning the ad to others. It provoked many comments of interest in the cruise and looking to find out more, but would have benefited from also including the free phone number.

Cunard Busy

This was a successful ad, but provoked extensive comments that it contained too much information to attract attention.  It may have been more attractive to those already interested rather than attracting new interest. The ad performed strongly on all 3 measures of brand equity, the affinity metric and some aspects of creative imagery. In terms of calls to action, trying to remember the ad and looking to find out more are further examples of success but it failed to perform well on mentioning the ad to somebody else.


  1. ADvance research conducted online by IPSOS Media CT. Fieldwork conducted February 2017. Sample aged 18+, based in Sydney with n=106 for both ads.
  2. Intending to take a cruise in the next 12 months – emma™ 12 months to March 2017. Readership based on last four weeks. Survey conducted by Ipsos MediaCT, people 14+ ; Nielsen DRM March 2017, People 14+ only
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