New York Agency to Hit the Books in Crown Campaign Pushing Cost

Article excerpt

Watch out, Borders and Barnes & Noble; Crown Books is coming after you.

Crown, based in Landover, is planning to launch a $5-million-a-year advertising campaign this summer that aims to reinforce the bookstore company's position as a low-cost alternative to its trendy competitors.

DeVito/Verdi, an acclaimed New York advertising shop, beat out three competitors - none from the Washington area - to win the Crown account. Agency President Ellis Verdi said the ads will tout Crown's prices, not whether it's a good place to meet singles.

"We sell books. We're not interested in creating a kaffeeklatch," Mr. Verdi said. Most of the ads will be created for television, although some print and radio spots will be included. DeVito/Verdi made waves in Washington last month when it released a provocative radio spot for For Eyes Optical stores. The spot was so steamy that four Washington stations opted not to run it.

Crown, a division of Dart Group Inc., operates 168 Crown and Super Crown stores in seven metropolitan areas, including Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.

WORKIN' ON THE RAILROAD

Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens is the new agency of record for the Virginia Railway Express. The Arlington agency beat out two competitors, including incumbent Williams Whittle Associates Inc., to win the three-year contract with the rail line, which runs daily commuter trains from Fredericksburg and Manassas to Washington.

"Commuters are consumers," agency President Doug Laughlin said. "Our job will be to convince Northern Virginia commuters to switch brands, from the single-occupant vehicle to the VRE. It's a classic advertising-promotion challenge."

Indeed. Many Northern Virginia commuters would rather battle Beltway traffic than shell out the $14 it can cost for a round-trip ticket between Fredericksburg and Union Station. Each day, some 350,000 cars enter the District from Virginia, compared with the 7,300 or so passengers on the railway.

To boost ridership, Virginia Railway Express proposed cutting fares and eliminating three stops for some trains to speed the ride into the District. The latter proposal has been shelved for now, but state transportation officials are considering slashing fares by as much as $1 each way.

One challenge for Laughlin, Marinaccio & Owens, which assumed the railway account July 1, will be persuading passengers to take the early train. According to railway spokesman Corey Hill, the 5:15 train from Fredericksburg is the day's emptiest, mainly because commuters can drive solo in high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on Interstate 95 until 6 a. …