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St. Pete Paper Looks for Better Times Than These

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"How do you take your Times?" is the theme of HMS Hallmark's new advertising campaign for the St. Petersburg Times.

The broadcast, print and promotional effort, the first for Hallmark's Tampa, Fla., unit (which won the newspaper business last year) kicks off this week and is scheduled to run through the end of the year.

The 30-second television spots touting the award-winning newspaper's news, sports, arts and classified sections, incorporate visually powerful, tightly edited images overlaid by a rhythmic, verbal storyline that is closer to beat poetry than rap music.

"The powerful ... the magical ... the passionately classical ... delicious, artful ... independent ..." runs a phrase from the arts spot.

"As we did the research, we realized everybody reads the paper for a different reason," said Michael Winner, HMS Hallmark Florida's president and chief executive officer. "We tried to bring that concept to life in an energetic and motivated way ... with music and an array of beautiful images that depict all the ways the paper can have meaning."

Like hundreds of papers around the country, the Times, now Florida's largest daily newspaper (the Miami Herald has a larger Sunday circulation), is struggling with stagnant growth, loss of readership to broadcast and cable outlets and heated competition from USA Today, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Hallmark's campaign is designed to expand and reinforce existing readership, while attracting non-readers. "This is a growth market," said Winner. "We need to excite and motivate people who are marginal."

Agency copywriter Robin Lawrence composed the elegant, cascading lyrics. Art director Lisa Hill assembled the visual array that that drives the TV spots. Ken Morrison directed.