Cruise line’s branded content piece was nothing more than an extended advert

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 11.00.06 AMLast night saw the airing of Royal Caribbean’s prime time branded content piece on Channel 7. Mumbrella’s Steve Jones says its lack of subtlety made it nothing more than an hour-long advert. 

However much money Royal Caribbean parted company with for its prime time exposure on Channel 7 last night, the cruise line must surely have been pleased with the end product.

Whether the 571,000 viewers who tuned in at 8pm to watch Tom, Rach and Rosso Go Cruising will have been quite so chuffed is another matter.

As a colleague remarked after sitting through the branded content extravaganza, he thought he’d tuned in to a US shopping channel.

Such was the overt promotional tone of the program, it was impossible to escape the feeling that Royal Caribbean had funded an hour-long advert and was aggressively selling its wares. Which, of course, is exactly what it had done and what it was doing.

But the program had been billed as a piece of genuine entertainment for viewers. Far from being a glorified commercial for Royal Caribbean – suggestions I had put to management in an interview prior to a pre-screening – it would be subtle, off the cuff, authentic and fun.

Was it fun? Undoubtedly so for Tim “Rosso” Ross, Tom Williams and Rachael Finch. They were enjoying a 10-day South Pacific voyage. And cruising is fun. I should know. I’ve done a few.

But it was lacking that natural element, that air of authenticity. If it was meant to be subtle and not spruik the product too much, it failed. It was, to all intents and purposes, a list of the things you could do on the ship set against a storyline of how Tom wanted to meet, and dine with the captain.

Having chatted to Rosso before the preview screening I have no doubt he was a cruising sceptic who, to use his own words, assumed they were only popular with “bogans and old people”.

Gradually, as the trio enjoyed activity after activity on board Voyager of the Seas, took in the parade of DreamWorks characters, dined at fancy Japanese restaurants, sipped cocktails and picked up duty free goods, they became sold on the concept of cruising.

Not that Tom needed persuading. He was already a fan. It was Rosso and Rach who needed convincing. And convinced they became. Or at least that’s what they told everyone.

The obvious difficulty with such branded content is striking the balance between genuine entertainment and brand promotion. The brand has invested significant resources into the production and, naturally enough, needs and wants a return. But the inherent risk is that it descends into nothing more than a promotion, loosely and inadequately dressed up as entertainment.

That, I feel, is what happened with Tom, Rach and Rosso Go Cruising.

Does it matter? For Royal Caribbean, probably not. Even if viewers saw it for what it was – a piece of paid-for content – Royal Caribbean is a challenger brand and the prime time program showcased its product in a way it could not hope to do in a 30 second or 60 second TV ad.

And who knows, maybe it did dispel the lingering myths that cruising is only for bogans and old folk.

Ultimately, it was just lame TV.

  • Steve Jones is chief reporter at Mumbrella

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