- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2002

Advertising & Marketing

AARP is about more than just senior discounts. hat's the message the District-based nonprofit group hopes will resonate with the public when a new brand campaign kicks off next year.

AARP, which has 35 million members older than age 50, has hired Austin, Texas-based GSD&M to handle its $20 million annual advertising account.

"We want to focus on our social mission," says John Killpack, AARP's director of brand management. "We want to deepen the understanding of what AARP is all about."

The incumbent agency was Washington's GMMB, which had worked with AARP for about 2½ years.

Mr. Killpack says the organization's advertising in the past focused on the AARP's member benefits, including the dozens of discounts available.

"We had been telling consumers what they already knew about AARP," Mr. Killpack says.

What consumers know less about is AARP's "social mission," including its consumer protection and education programs and its advocacy work on the federal and state levels, Mr. Killpack says.

AARP started the search for a new ad agency in June, hiring MatchWorks in New York to compile an initial list of agencies. Fifteen firms were asked to submit examples of their work.

The list of potential agencies was then narrowed down to six, and GSD&M and Mullen, based in Wenham, Mass., were selected as the two finalists.

Instead of doing creative work, both agencies were given a strategic assignment to figure out how they would "go about clarifying the AARP brand," Mr. Killpack says. The final decision was made earlier this month.

AARP's new brand campaign won't start until early next year, Mr. Killpack says.

AARP changed its name officially from the American Association of Retired Persons in the fall of 1998 to reflect the group's diverse membership. Fewer than half of its members are retired.

Bigwigs make big strides

The Greater Washington Initiative, an affiliate of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, has had an increase in visitors to its Web site since starting a new corporate spokesman campaign in April.

The ads feature local bigwigs J.W. Marriott Jr., chairman of Marriott International Inc. of Bethesda; William Haseltine, chief executive of Human Genome Sciences Inc. of Rockville; and AOL Time Warner executive and sports mogul Ted Leonsis all touting the message that Washington is an ideal place to live and work.

The ads urge people interested in expanding to the Washington area to visit www.greaterwashington.org for more information. The number of unique visitors to the site is up an average of 38 percent per month, say Greater Washington Initiative officials.

The ads have been running on the airport networks at Washington Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and on some local radio stations, as well as in regional publications. Television ads are expected to start running in the fall on Discovery Communications' channels.

In other ad news

•The U.S. Postal Service hired Campbell-Ewald of Detroit as the lead creative agency to handle its $100 million advertising account. Campbell-Ewald will join forces with Draft Worldwide of Chicago. The agencies, which are both part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, were selected after a three-month review.

•Eisner Communications in Baltimore won the $2 million advertising account for the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

Donna DeMarco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Advertising & Marketing appears every other Monday.

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