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Simon Property Group, the nation's largest shopping mall group and owner of the Mall of America in Minnesota, this week launches its first major branding campaign.

The $22 million-plus effort, thought to be one of the first branding efforts by a shopping center group, is tagged "Simply Simon."

Two TV spots from Publicis, Indianapolis, break March 1 and show vignettes of shoppers enjoying the mall experience. One spot, tagged "Simply more," focuses on the centers' convenience, selection, value and entertainment activities.

TV and radio commercials use the voice-over of Andrea Thompson, who plays detective Jill Kirkendall on ABC's "NYPD Blues."

The spots will run in regional markets.

Print ads and in-mall advertising -- such as the addition of the Simon name on mall entrances and parking lot banners -- will be used as well.


Simon also inked a deal to produce a new publication, S, in a venture with Time Inc. Custom Publishing. S will include lifestyle stories from major Time Inc. magazines such as Sports Illustrated and In Style, and will feature information such as mall maps and articles about the mall's local area.

This spring, Simon will complete the rollout of a loyalty program, called MallPerks, that will give customers dollar-for-dollar "points" redeemable for travel or other awards. In addition, the shopping centers will offer customers a branded Visa credit card.

Shoppers "know we're here, but now we've got to create that emotional link," said Shari Simon, VP-corporate marketing.


"We want to be a household name like everybody else," she said, noting that the property group has initiated a number of joint marketing ventures with brand marketers, such as Pepsi-Cola Co.

Simon Property Group owns or has an interest in 243 properties in 35 states. The "Simply Simon" program applies to 146 enclosed malls, and another marketing program is under development for the smaller "community centers" or strip malls.

Ms. Simon said the branding effort isn't an answer to a threat of shoppers switching to cyberspace.

"The answer to the Internet question remains to be seen," she said. "They said the same thing would happen with home shopping" on TV, yet that hasn't weakened malls.

Another shopping center chain, Australia-based Westfield Corp., also plans to begin a national marketing effort along with on-mall signage (AA, Feb. 8).

Westfield, which earlier this month signed DDB Needham Worldwide, Los Angeles,

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