Washington Business Report - Feb. 2, 2014

Cruise lines get passing grade from DC crisis management specialist

The cruise line industry is showing great leadership in the wake of its latest image challenges, according to the C-E-O of a Washington, DC crisis communications firm.

The cruise line industry has a challenge which is largely unfair, Richard Levick says. "17 million passengers per year, and less than one per cent - a fraction of one per cent - become ill," he says.

Passengers aboard Explorer of the Seas, where hundreds fell ill recalled days of misery holed up in their rooms as it returned to its home port Wednesday from a Caribbean trip cut short by what is suspected to be among the largest such norovirus outbreaks in the last 20 years.
Travelers recounted how hundreds were throwing up, and stricken passengers had food brought to their rooms. Others were served from covered buffets by crew members wearing gloves and masks during an outbreak that sickened nearly 700 passengers and crew on the ship operated by Royal Caribbean.
As part of a discussion on Washington Business Report, the damage control specialist pointed out that the press given to outbreak quoted some passengers saying the ship was brought back to port too soon, with others on the very same cruise complaining their trip should have ended sooner.

The C.E.O. of Levick Communications says Royal Caribbean handled the situation well, offering great benefits to travelers: a 50 percent credit on the cost of their vacation, and a 50 percent rebate on a future cruise.

The cruise line also gets a passing grade for working to avoid future outbreaks by showing great leadership, he says.

"It's not that they just worked with the Centers for Disease Control, but they have been proactive" Levick observes. "They have been trying to set higher and new standards."

Super Bowl gold: Ad gurus' top picks

The iconic Apple ad from 30 years ago is still something to the strive for in a Super Bowl ad, according to two of the biggest names in advertising in the Washington region.

"I simply love it," says Matt Smith CEO of Smith Gifford.

"Apple sold 155 million units after the first three months once they showed that ad," notes Cary Hatch, the CEO of MDB Communications.

In a clear nod to George Orwell's novel of the same name, the dark science fiction show of innovation versus conformity ends with the message: "On January 24, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'"

As part of Super Bowl Sunday discussion on Washington Business Report on what works and what doesn't in television advertising, Smith and Hatch shared their favorites, with Hatch crowning's black and white interviews with young children. She says the ad created "an opportunity to bond" with the company.

She says many people can relate to the workplace realities that the ad shines a light on.

Smith and Hatch gave the nod to companies such as Budweiser, Foot Locker, Snickers and e-Trade, saying the branding stakes are high, and the costs are, too. Advertisers pay about $4 million for a 30-second Super Bowl spot.

Smith says the Budweiser's Clydesdale horses stories are entertaining stories which create an emotional connection, digging deeper than just the beer-making brand, but tapping into the craft itself.