From the high street to the high seas

55°42′41″N, 012°35′32″E

Key takeaways

The Challenge

DFDS are the world’s leading ferry operator. Brand awareness is not where it deserves to be, considering the coverage of routes across the UK.

The Work

We carried out ongoing strategic and tactical campaign work, including brand development, positioning, and campaigns to attract audiences and book tickets.  

The Results

Through our collaboration with DFDS, we've helped them define markets, increase digital traffic and create the look and feel of new physical locations.

A relationship that's navigated choppy waters

We are delighted to have been working with DFDS for a number of years across a range of projects and we are proud of the results we have achieved.

Our relationship started at the most testing of times, just as Covid hit, but we have helped them to navigate through difficult times to the clearer seas ahead. Our work has included developing a global communication strategy (more to come on that in the future) and a range of tactical campaigns to help drive bookings and revenue.

This is an example of one such campaign, which helped the successful reintroduction of Duty Free.

DFDS Ferries is well noted for its high service standards, winning Europe's leading ferry operator award for nine consecutive years. What they are less well known for is shopping.

Due to a change in 2020 relating to the new laws on product duties, DFDS spotted a huge opportunity; to own the duty-free marketplace.

The brief

We were asked to reintroduce the concept of significant shopping savings, under the duty-free scheme, into the minds of DFDS passengers.

Sounds simple. But it’s not all plain sailing (sorry). First, duty-free hasn’t been a thing for a long time, over 20 years. There was, arguably, a more prominent line of messaging to address in the form of confidence and reassurance following the peak of the pandemic. And, finally, how we’ve become used to shopping over the past ten years has changed. Radically.

In a nutshell, there may be deals to have through duty-free, but people simply aren’t looking. Decent savings can be found every day at the swipe, tap or click of a button. 

So here's where our thinking took us:


We decided to jump on the excitement of going on holiday 'the shoulders down moment, where a pint at 5am seems acceptable.' We’re trading on ‘because you can’.


We recognised that shopping duty-free isn't done out of necessity; it's often spontaneous, safe in the knowledge we can justify the purchase as being cheaper than normal. Travellers aren’t in daily driver mode.


We tactically platformed products that we knew would represent a bigger aspirational pull, be better quality or that typify better times ahead, 'because you deserve it'.

It's the three insights that formed a narrative, perfect for pre-holiday researchers.

The outcome

For standout, we produced a series of digital assets for prime channels such as Facebook, Instagram and Google. The campaign began with a simple, friendly animation explaining what duty-free is and how passengers can benefit.

A strong collection of visuals and headlines grabbed attention and then drove site searches for duty-free. Creative content addressed three aspects. It placed DFDS at the centre of duty-free savings, safe travel and escapism.

In addition we investigated how we could use local assets in Dover to influence travellers to participate in a little duty free shopping themselves as part of their travel experience. We identified key out of home sites within Dover and maximised the message we could deliver to a passing audience.

We even got in touch with the port authorities and worked out the distance between the sites, traffic speeds and flow so that we could deliver the most effective message to engage with travellers. 

“Navigate’s creative work for the launch of Duty-Free was exceptional and has been an integral part of the success of the reintroduction of duty-free. The range of creativity and activation tactics have been brilliant and it's really helped to drive us further ahead than we expected." 

Stephen House, Head of Campaign and Product Manager - DFDS Europe 

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