AMERICORPS OPTS FOR 1ST PAID ADVERTISING: U.S. SERVICE GROUP PICKS GSD&M FOR REPOSITIONING

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AmeriCorps wants people to know that it's more than just another do-gooder organization. So the national service group-known as the domestic Peace Corps-has hired GSD&M, Austin, Texas, to create its first paid advertising.

The TV and print ads, due out this fall, will attempt to reposition AmeriCorps as an essential service organization that teaches people to be self-sufficient. The campaign is still in the concept stage, but one proposed idea would focus on ongoing success stories of volunteers, towns or programs.

"The positioning idea is that AmeriCorps makes a difference that lives on," said James Martin, senior VP-marketplace planning at GSD&M. "Having people like [what you do] isn't enough. Our research found you can't just be nice, you have to be necessary."

GSD&M was awarded the business on the strength of its work for Fannie Mae, the national mortgage lender.

A GSD&M spokesman said that while the two may not appear similar on the surface, they both have the same needs-strong branding, and the mandate to be more than well-liked as a good program.

This year marks the fifth anniversary for AmeriCorps, known as a favorite project of President Clinton. However, the organization is facing some resistance from legislators over its primary funding.

TARGETED BY TAX CUT

The program received $714 million in government funding this year. But the $792 billion tax-cut package proposed by Congress would dismantle the program. The tax plan faces a presidential veto.

The advertising won't be paid for with government funds; AmeriCorps has begun to ask private companies to pitch in with donations.

Mr. Martin said they also hope to get significant play by using the ads as

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