(6 a.m. EDT) – Celebrity Cruises is debuting its new marketing campaign -- "Sail Beyond Borders," which encourages people to reach out globally to explore the world and other cultures -- with a TV advertisement during tonight's U.S. presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The 30-second ad, which will run on ABC and CNN, uses powerful language. "Far from the talk of building walls, far from the threats of keeping people out, far from the rhetoric of fear, is a world of differences -- differences that expand and enrich us," a female voice says over images of global cities and a ship's wake. "Because, after all, our lives aren't made better when we close ourselves off to the world -- they're made better when we open ourselves up to it."
The ad and its placement during what's expected to be a ratings blockbuster are a deliberate move for the brand, said Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, president and CEO of Celebrity Cruises.
"We're heading in a purpose-driven direction with 'Sailing Beyond Borders,' " she said in a phone interview with Cruise Critic. "We're still a modern luxury cruise line, but it's less about 'Modern Luxury Lives Here'." Will McGinness, partner and executive creative director for Venables Bell & Partners, who worked on the ad, calls it "a new direction for the Celebrity brand."
While the language of the ad seems to be taking aim at Republican candidate Donald Trump, who has called for a wall to be built between the U.S. and Mexico, Lutoff-Perlo says that's not the case.
"This is not a political ad or a political statement," she said. "We are pro-humanity. This message is based on what we do for a living and the fact that we take people around the world to experience different cultures. Humanity has to continue to do that so we don’t stay walled off."
As for the evocative references to a wall, Lutoff-Perlo said that comes from her experiences in Germany and China, not Mexico. "As for the wall thing, I was in Berlin on my president's cruise, and I was standing in front of the Berlin Wall when I tweeted #nomorewalls. Then, recently, I was having dinner on the Great Wall of China at a board meeting and thought: The world has proven that walls are bad; we've already learned that. Forget America, it's about the world. America just happens to be where we live. We're choosing this one event [the presidential debate] to amplify not political commentary, but to be open to the world. That's why these ads are airing in the U.K. and Australia as well; we're citizens of the world and we need to focus on getting smaller and closer."
The timing, as described in the company's news release, is "purposeful" and set during "an impactful shared cultural moment." According to Lutoff-Perlo, "It's based on everything going on in the world; we just chose the debate as a platform for the message to be heard and for conversation to begin."
In the release, the ad campaign is called an "unapologetic declaration of company ideology," with Peter Giorgi, Celebrity's chief marketing officer, saying "it feels like the right time to speak up" and "we're encouraging people to be fearless."
"Yeah, it goes against what other people might say ... but I don’t think it's a left or right issue," Lutoff-Perlo said. "Millions reject this [anti-travel] rhetoric on the right, and I believe the vast majority will agree with what the ad has to say. We're not alienating anyone; I guarantee if we did, we never had those people to begin with."
Lutoff-Perlo said Celebrity's crew members, who represent an estimated 50 different cultures, served as a "huge inspiration" for the ad campaign.
"Everyone is very proud of the ad," she said.
During the interview, Lutoff-Perlo noted concern that people were becoming hesitant to travel, and instead, putting up cultural barriers.
"As far as I know [in the company's history] we've never made an ad like this. But what it means to me is that we have a purpose beyond what we do for a living, which is taking people on a cruise," she said. "People care more about brands that have a purpose than brands that just do something. Celebrity Cruises wants to stop talking the same way as all the other cruise lines -- about how many perks we offer when you book a cruise -- and instead, believe in getting to the heart, soul and purpose of doing what we do, which is to enrich lives with amazing places to visit around the world. We need more people to want to do that. We believe what's happening -- based on conversations -- is that they are doing less of it."
So what would Celebrity encourage everyone to do before the November 8 election? "Book a cruise!" Lutoff-Perlo said enthusiastically. "Explore the world, become more enriched."
The "Sail Beyond Borders" TV spot will air tonight during the first debate for the 2016 U.S presidential election. The Celebrity Cruises brand will follow it up with print advertisements in five newspapers -- "New York Times", "Seattle Times", "Washington Post", "Chicago Tribune" and "San Francisco Chronicle" -- and one magazine, "Architectural Digest". The campaign will also feature "landing page takeovers" on Celebrity's website, which will feature a collection of stories from the company's diverse crew. Lutoff-Perlo said Celebrity encourages an open forum about its philosophy of travel and culture; join the conversation on social media using the #BeyondBorders.
--By Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor