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Carnival 'knows' how difficult it can be to find a good PR vehicle…unless it's a nose

The nose. We sniff with it. Sometimes we blow it, or pick it, stick it in other people's business. The nose can make the difference in a horse race or in the career of a celebrity, aka Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope or Michael Jackson. The most famous one of all may belong to a mystical reindeer who can fly. And is there anybody, anywhere, who thinks their nose is small?

For all its uses, the focus of an advertising campaign would be far down the list, or perhaps off it.

Then, along came Carnival. Yes, the cruise line. The one everybody loves to ridicule even if they didn't know it existed until there was a reason to ridicule it. So maybe an ad campaign with a nose as the feature attraction was just the right size, or fit.

This story began innocently enough. A PR firm in Australia, named Ogilvy, "highjacked an iconic moment on the Australian calendar." More than a Spirit-AU 580 2moment…a whole day. Red Nose Day. They put it together with a local charity (SIDS and Kids) and invited everybody within sight to "get silly for a serious cause."

The origins of Red Nose Day seem to be in England, where it has become — as the Brits would say — a massive fundraiser. How massive is $100 million in 2013 alone? It was started by an organization called Comic Relief and the slogan every March is to "do something funny for money" so Carnival and Australia simply changed a few words.

They also built a nose bigger than Durante's. A red one, even bigger than Rudolph's: 7 metres (23 feet) in diameter. Then they stuck it on the bow of the Carnival Spirit, lit it up and sailed the ship past Sydney's greatest landmarks, The Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Passengers on the ship participated. people on the shore participated. Internet users entered a chance to win a cruise by "red nosing themselves" at rednoseme.com. The whole thing went…viral.

How viral?

• International impressions that reached 178 million
• Free coverage on 250 TV stations in Australia
• A photo gallery on The Daily Mail's website, which has a huge…no, massive, reach
• 144,400 Facebook friends
• A popularity rating of 100%

All of this exceeded Carnival's expectations, and it all started with a nose. 

Or somebody who had one that smelled success.

Norwegian Pearl
7 nights
January 5, 2013
Miami (return): Great Stirrup CayOcho RiosGrand CaymanCozumel
Inside: $449
Cost per day: $64
www.ncl.com

A Celebrity conceived on Celebrity

I live with a Parrothead. I should say I’m married to a Parrothead…and before everybody gets all over me for spousal insolence, Nancy happily confesses to being a Parrothead, because that’s just what Jimmy Buffett fans do.

Today, from an article I read in the Charleston Daily Mail comes a funny tale about a Jimmy Buffett fan who became much more.

His name is Tom Watt, and 15 years ago he took a break from his carpet-cleaning business to sail on one of the Celebrity Century’s first cruises, embarking in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The story’s too long to re-tell in a blog like this, but the short version goes is…

Watt had a solo acoustic act that played church gatherings and nursing homes around Pittsburgh in the ’70s. On that Celebrity cruise, he became a celebrity. The band that was playing invited him on stage a night after they met, and he sang “Margaritaville.” The audience thought he was the real thing. So did the cruise line executives, who asked for autographs and — despite Watt’s denials that he was Jimmy Buffett — insisted his anonymity was safe with them, as they sent nightly bottles of champagne to his table.

Home from the cruise, he filled in for a Caribbean-themed musician at a bar one night, and was offered a job. That was the beginning of the end of cleaning carpets. The end came when he saw an audience going bananas to Margaritaville while watching a Buffett impersonator one night near Virginia Beach.

He became, officially, a Buffett impersonator and tours the country as “The Buffetman.” Not only does he sound like Buffett, whom he has met (once), Watt looks like him, too. He’s had women walk up to him and pose for a picture that her husband takes, and walk away without saying a word.

That could be my Parrothead.

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