Paper Chase in Dallas

The Dallas Morning News has pitted its internal ad team against The Richards Group and Square One in a review for the paper’s creative duties, sources said.

The first assignment is expected to be a rebranding effort. “See what’s inside” is the client’s tagline.

The paper’s large in-house staff has handled the estimated $3 million ad account since June 1999, when it was pulled from DDB in Dallas. Client representative Lee Qualls would only say, “We have asked several agencies to look at a project for The Dallas Morning News.”

The review comes as Belo’s flagship newspaper vies with Knight Ridder’s Fort Worth, Texas-based Star-Telegram for readers that live between Dallas and Fort Worth, in what are called the “mid-cities” like Arlington, Euless and Bedford. Both Richards and Square One are located in Dallas.

Dean Aitken, vice president of marketing at the San Antonio Express-News, prefers using local agency Creative Civilization for branding duties. “Newspapers are marketers to begin with, but there’s a big plus to having an outside view and having them work with an [internal staff],” he said.

Agencies who handle advertising for newspapers face the challenge of convincing readers the product is still important in today’s multimedia culture. “You need to reignite interest in something that people already know about,” said Diane Seimetz, a partner at Launch Partnership in Irving, Texas, which handles the Star-Telegram.

The IPG shop’s solution is to use “You can’t replace the paper” as a tag in its campaign, which challenges readers to imagine life without the daily. One billboard states, “Ever try clipping coupons out of a radio?” A print ad reads, “When’s the last time your family sat down on a Sunday morning and read the Internet together?” The theme continues in radio and TV ads airing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.