Redesigning the Virgin Mary

Jersey Shop Given Sensitive Assignment

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In with the new (top), out with the old.
In with the new (top), out with the old.
Here's a marketing project of a lifetime: redesign the Virgin Mary.

St. Mary's Hospital set out to do just that after several rival institutions closed down in Passaic, N.J., where it operates. Those closures, combined with a move to a new location that was the former Passaic Beth Israel/General Hospital Center, prompted the hospital to do a little Rx on its image -- including giving a facelift to the Blessed Virgin, the prominent figure in its logo.

The task could have been, well, hellish. "Advertising agencies all understand strategy, of course," said Vanessa Warner, director of PR and marketing at St. Mary's, who spearheaded the project. But its agency, Princeton Communications Group, "really had to grasp the spirit guiding the strategy for this project, too," she said. "It really required an especially sensitive and respectful approach."

Not to mention the signoff of trustees, the medical and nursing staff, employees and administrators -- and the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth at Convent Station, N.J.

But the sisters signed off on the new mother, evidently, and the logo appears in new print ads launched last month in local newspapers and select Catholic publications. A 30-second cable TV spot is also part of the push, running on networks including CNN, Lifetime, The Learning Channel, TNT, Food Network and A&E.

Ms. Warner admits that the budget is only about one-fourth the size of its competitors', but the hospital has gotten outsized publicity thanks to its, er, divine intervention.
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