The clock is running down and the mud is being slung. But Monday, the eve of the primary election that will effectively narrow the candidates for mayor to one, a new campaign will begin that focuses only on positives.
While the candidates continue to field questions on how to fix the negatives that plague Baltimore -- the addicts, the exodus, the crime -- the new campaign will tout the city's successes, its pluses, its promises.
But do not expect it to endorse a candidate.
Monday night, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore Inc., a nonprofit alliance of business leaders that promotes the downtown area, will release a new media campaign that pitches a "24-hour" downtown.
"We wanted to convey a downtown where people can not just live, not just work, not just play, but can do all of those things," said Laurie Schwartz, Downtown Partnership president. "This campaign integrates all of those elements. It communicates the strengths of downtown."
The campaign -- "Live. Work. Play. It's all Downtown." -- will be introduced at the organization's annual meeting Monday, and its blues-infused commercial will premiere during prime time on all six local network affiliates.
Commercials are also scheduled to run on four cable stations, TNT, USA Network, Nickelodeon and Lifetime, and print ads will appear in several local publications, including The Sun. The Mass Transit Administration has donated 80 bus side ad spaces to the campaign, and ads will be posted on outdoor billboards this spring.
"If anybody in Baltimore's eyes or ears are open in the next three months, they can't miss this campaign," Schwartz said.
The "Live. Work. Play." campaign replaces the "See Ya 'Round Downtown" campaign the organization launched in 1994 that was geared mostly toward the commercial and recreational aspects of downtown.
"While the appropriate message a few years ago was 'come on down and have fun,' now the living and working aspect sort of complete the triangle," said James Dale, a marketing consultant for the Downtown Partnership who was involved in both campaigns. "It was wonderful to discover [downtown] had the product to live up to that promise: live, work and play."
The Downtown Partnership defines downtown as the area bordered by Fells Point, Federal Hill, Mount Vernon and University Center. According to Schwartz, the area has shown growth in all of the economic indicators that the organization tracks.
"For the second year in a row, we've documented the growth of downtown as greater than the region as a whole," she said. "All numbers are positive when you take a look at investment, employment, property value and residents."
The cornerstone of the campaign is an upbeat 30-second commercial featuring 32 scenes throughout downtown, the voice of local blues performer Kelly Bell and more than 100 Baltimoreans.
"There is not one actor in this," said Joseph Mosca, a free-lance producer who produced the commercial. "These are real people doing their thing downtown."
The people who appeared in the commercial were not paid, and many of the individuals and companies involved in the campaign worked at cost, Dale said. Companies involved in the campaign included local film company Big Shot Productions, Owings Mills ad agency MGH and local music production company Clean Cuts.
Dale said most media outlets also agreed to a two for one deal that allowed the Downtown Partnership to get air time or print space for half the cost.
The result was a media campaign worth almost $1 million that the organization was able to pull off for a "fraction" of the cost, said Andrew Malice, MGH president.
Trigen Energy Baltimore, the campaign's sponsor, has made a three-year commitment "worth several thousand dollars per year," said James J. Abromitis, president of Trigen Energy Baltimore. Abromitis would not specify the amount of the donation.
"It was a great way not only to promote our name but to support an important downtown project," he said.
The Downtown Partnership will also release other versions of the campaign's commercial that can be used to advertise particular events downtown, such as the Baltimore Book Festival.
Schwartz said she can see multiple uses for the commercial.
"I think this video would be great for an apartment building that wants to entice people to move here or to show companies to get them to invest here," she said. "The beat and the tempo is exactly what we want to convey downtown."
Dale said investment really is the fourth, unspoken theme of the partnership's campaign.
"Live, work and play are elements that are most appealing to people who want to invest in the area," he said. "We are also speaking to the investment community with this campaign. You will see both consumer and business interests under this theme."
Andrew Segal, president of Boxer Property of Houston, which owns eight commercial buildings in Baltimore, agreed with the partnership's concept.
"Baltimore is really on the cusp of switching from a city where working downtown is annoying because you live in a suburb," Segal said. "But as living downtown is more desirable it will continue the renaissance that started with the harbor. The play begets the live, the live begets work. I think they are right on the money."
In the campaign's print ads, the partnership does seek to counter some of the negative perceptions about downtown, such as a lack of parking, while touting development such as the renovation of the West Side.
"We are trying to be very candid about them," Dale said. "We say, 'Here is what we have to offer, you be the judge.' "