New daily targets Baltimore’s young professionals

The Baltimore Sun, with the help of marketing communications firm MGH, launched a free daily on Monday.

The new paper, b, targets 20- and 30-year-olds in and around Baltimore. It also has an online component — — which features blogs, news and user-generated content. Select user-generated pieces will be reprinted in the print edition.

MGH was chosen to launch a branding and advertising campaign for the paper thanks, in part, to its previous work with b parent the Sun.

“It’s definitely a challenge to get people in their 20s to read a newspaper,” said John Patterson, EVP and creative director at MGH. “The fundamental approach behind the campaign was not to try to rationalize people into reading, so we decided to use an emotional appeal instead.”

MGH’s bright orange ads, featuring the slogan, “Do you have b?” started appearing on mobile billboards, taxi toppers, city buses, wild postings and in urinals at the time of the launch.

Patterson said that the paper opted out of a protracted hype period in favor of a large debut. He also noted that the campaign eschewed TV and radio ads in favor of city-centric ads that would appeal to urban professionals. “We equated b with being cool, so we wanted to keep it very simple and graphic, almost like fashion advertising, which is less rational and more emotional,” he said.

“The key is to really hit the target audience where they live, work and play,” said Brad Howard, general manager of b. “We have to make it easy for this group to pick up the product, and we found that a lot of the people we’re handing to have an mp3 player or an iPod on, so you have to make it easy to see.”

A total of 50,000 copies of b are distributed daily in orange boxes and retail locations throughout Baltimore. Howard says the rate base should hit 75,000 by September and 100,000 by 2009.

Howard was not concerned about the current market accepting b.

“We understand this industry has been challenged since 2000, and we recognize that the key thing is looking to new audiences and coming out with new products to reach an audience that isn’t being reached,” he said. “In the area, that’s young adults in their 20s and 30s. “When we did our research and looked at the market we found and feel strongly that no one is really capturing that audience, especially in a daily publication.”

The Baltimore Sun Media Group first floated the idea of b by employees in their target demographic. The company then held focus groups and researched the business practices of similar publications like Chicago’s RedEye and Dallas’ Quick.

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