Special offers put readers into cruise mode

Two ads appear similar but received different responses. Insight Specialist ADRIAN FERNANDES uncovers how readers react differently to offers of ‘free’ and ‘save’ when considering a European cruise



Avalon Waterways
The Avalon Waterways creative had strong visual appeal due to the use of large, striking images. Deborah Hutton as a brand ambassador was popular and helped the ad standout compared to competitors. The ad was also successful in encouraging readers to go online to seek more information on the cruises advertised. It had a positive impact on brand equity, significantly improving familiarity with the Avalon Waterways brand.

Scenic Tours
The Scenic Tours creative scored strongly in inspiring action, driven by the attractive “Fly free to France” offer. The ad was also successful in encouraging ‘talkability’ with many readers saying they would tell others about the offer. It also performed well in building the Scenic Tours brand and helping it stand out from competitors in the river cruise category.


Print newspapers are second to online as the most useful media to influence holiday decisions.

Some 31 per cent of Australians use print newspapers to inspire holiday ideas and to help plan their next trip, making them a powerful medium for tour operators.

Scenic Tours and Avalon Waterways recently looked to print newspapers to advertise their European river cruise packages, with each brand using similar but distinctive approaches.

Scenic Tours Campaign

Scenic Tours’ creative solution is destination-based, highlighting the cultural side of river cruising while promoting an early-bird call to action.

Its centrepiece is a headline offering free return flights to France as part of each of three packages. The featured couple indicates Scenic Tours is targeting middle-aged and retired customers.


Avalon Waterways Initiative

The Avalon Waterways’ creative also offers a discount for early bookings of four river-cruise packages in France – $1,000 per couple – and is accompanied by an image of former model Deborah Hutton as the celebrity endorsement. This creative features a large, attractive image of a river cruise by the Eiffel Tower and four panels outlining the route of each tour option.

The RoleMap

Six strategic advertising roles of newspapers have been validated both qualitatively and quantitatively by The Newspaper Works, resulting in the creation of RoleMap. For more information on this map, click here.


Both of these print ads work hard to build their respective brands while also stimulating a call to action.

The Scenic Tours creative is particularly effective in terms of driving call to action, with 29 per cent of respondents saying the ad gives a reason to buy, use or find out more about the offer – that is 20 per cent more than the newspaper ad norm.

One respondent suggested why this might be: “This ad is similar to other travel ads but the magical word “FREE” stands out to grab your attention very effectively.”

The creative was also effective in driving positive-affinity toward the Scenic Tours brand (22% vs. 9% newspaper ad norm) and encouraging reappraisal of the brand (18% vs. 8% newspaper ad norm).

The Avalon Waterways’ ad out-performed the newspaper ad norm in terms of providing information about the brand (45% vs. 25%). The creative was also successful in building affinity toward the brand (22%) and encouraging reappraisal (16%).

The ActionMap

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. For more information on ActionMap, click here.


Respondents commented that the cruise ads were similar, with one saying: “All these river cruise ads look exactly the same to me.”

Though these two executions are similar in style, they actually drive different actions. The Avalon Waterways’ creative has the edge in terms of encouraging readers to visit a travel agent or search for more information online. One in four respondents (23%) said they would carry out one of these actions after seeing the ad – that’s 13 per cent more the newspaper ad norm (10%).

The Scenic Tours ad performed better in terms of talkability, with one in five saying they would mention the ad to others.

Both performed well in terms of encouraging readers to remember the offer for later with Avalon scoring 21 per cent and Scenic Tours achieving 23 per cent against a norm of 13 per cent.

Brand equity


Both ads boosted brand equity and familiarity for Avalon Waterways (49%) and Scenic Tours (43%) – results that outperform the industry norm of 28 per cent. The ads were seen to be brand appropriate (41% for Avalon Waterways and 36% for Scenic Tours).

Creative Diagnostics


Both executions were visually appealing and encouraged readers to stop and read more (31% for Scenic Tours and 29% for Avalon vs. 17% newspaper ad norm).

Overall, the Avalon Waterways ad proved significantly more appealing in terms of aesthetics, with 32 per cent of respondents favourable. The celebrity endorsement played well, too.

The Scenic Tours ad was perceived to be less cluttered than the Avalon Waterways execution. Just 14 per cent of respondents said the Scenic Tours ad had too much information compared to 21 per cent who made the same observation of Avalon Waterways’ ad. The newspaper norm for this feedback is 10 per cent).

Quote, Unquote

Readers on Scenic Tours

This ad is similar to other travel ads but the magical word “free” stands out to grab your attention.

Clearly anything free catches your attention – enough further information is included. You look for the catch but at least the prices of the cruises are listed, so you can decide whether to follow up.

With the picture of the couple at the top, the ad will only appeal to similar people, not the remainder of the population.

A bit cluttered and too much fine print.

Great ad! The picture caught my eye first with the views from the boat. I loved the little maps that show you where is goes, all the stop off points, and the dot points that tell you the inclusions. Very simple and easy to follow.

It lists a lot of features of the tour, but when looking at the “enjoy, discover, experience” sub-headings, I didn’t really retain any of the information.

Readers on Avalon Waterways

The ad is similar to other cruise operators’, except it had the lovely Deborah Hutton.

It is too busy to catch attention, too much is going on to make you want to stop and read.

Certainly made the product look appealing. Variety of price options was also good.

Seeing all these cruises gives me an excited feeling.

It had a lot of information and people may not be bothered to read it all. However, the use of the large writing of the save $1000 per couple would make people stop and read.



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