Carnival Cruise Lines Woos Travelers With Virtual Aquariums in Six Cities

In an effort to hook potential travelers, Carnival Cruise Lines installed interactive computer-generated aquariums in empty storefronts across the U.S.

By Mimi O'Connor March 19, 2009, 2:56 PM EDT

Carnival Cruise Lines' interactive aquarium

Photo: Jessica Torossian for BizBash

When fishing for new customers, Carnival Cruise Lines can't exactly pass out free samples at a major sporting event or the mall. So execs at the company created a multi-city marketing stunt they hoped would give potential travelers a taste of what it's like to go on a Carnival Cruise by installing a series of interactive aquariums on busy streets in urban centers nationwide.

On March 10, the high-tech, computer animated tanks debuted in Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, where they will be on display through the end of April. Positioned in vacant storefronts in high-traffic pedestrian areas, the aquariums, developed by Carnival's advertising agency, Arnold Worldwide, are designed to capture the attention of passersby.

“[Carnival] is very much a leading-edge marketer,“ said Lisa Unsworth, Arnold's chief marketing officer. “We knew they had an appreciation for things that were digital and nontraditional.”

Set off by motion detectors, the seaweed and underwater critters depicted on the large screens respond by moving. A cartoon crab holds a sign that reads “Call now,” and appears to be pointing to further instructions posted on the wall nearby. Should they be so moved, the curious can call a toll-free number on their cell phones, create their own fish on the screens, and then move the fish using the phone's keypad. When a session is complete, users receive a text message directing them to the cruise line's Web site for more information.

In what may be the most strategic element of the installation, the most responsive zone of the tank is at its bottom, at almost precisely the height of a small child. (On our visit to the setup in New York, kids seemed to find the aquarium the most entertaining, and their parents were more than willing to let them play.) The tank is an entertaining diversion, albeit a time-consuming one, and even a single user draws attention to the computer-generated advertisement.

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