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When Mary Pasciucco took a job at the 12-store Talbots chain, her mission was to start an in-house advertising department.

Twenty years later, with a chain of 700 stores, she not only built the department but took the company to its first network TV buy.

Talbots, the fashion chain that specializes in classic clothing, was facing stagnating sales in a changing retail world. Stores and catalogs weren't enough anymore.

"We had a substantial in-house marketing department, but we needed outside expertise," says Ms. Pasciucco, senior VP-catalog development and advertising.

She hired Arnold Communications, Boston, to study the company's brand essence. In 1997, she worked with the agency on a new logo and tested TV. Last year, she planned some Super Bowl marketing, but not the wild spots usually running during the game. Ms. Pasciucco took out ads in daily newspapers prior to the game, appealing to women who hate the game and urging them to go to Talbots to celebrate the Super Bowl.

Later, she launched the Talbots.com site with a campaign featuring Jane Jetson of the futuristic cartoon family. Her plan worked.

The chain's earnings have improved for eight straight quarters, and analyst A.G. Edwards & Sons said, Talbots is "our top recommendation among specialty apparel retailers."

"The challenge is to continue to keep yourself fresh," says Ms. Pasciucco, 46, who is doing just that. She's leaving her post this year to spend more time with her young family. "I figure if I don't take this time now, I may look back with regret."

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