Group uses humorous touch to sell Baltimore

Center's ads aimed at Washington-area residents


A group aiming to turn Washingtonians into Baltimoreans hopes a little inside-the-Beltway humor will do the trick.

"NSA records indicate you're making a lot of calls to Baltimore," reads a new ad from the Live Baltimore Home Center. "Why don't you just move here?"

A photo of President Bush talking on the phone also appears in the ad, which was placed in Express, a free newspaper geared to Metro riders and put out by The Washington Post.

"If we don't get audited by the IRS, it will be pretty good," said Tracy Gosson, executive director of the center, who dreamed up the pitch to promote an event the organization is putting on in Greenbelt on Wednesday.

A nonprofit group that promotes city living, the center has used humor before to promote Charm City's rail lines and relatively cheap housing to Washington-area commuters weary of gridlock and high rents.

"Stripped and ready to have your way with it," was the tagline on an ad for Baltimore housing that ran in 2003 in The Blade, a gay newspaper. Another pictured a Chia pet and read, "In a D.C. home, this is as much dog as you have room for."

Gosson said the center was looking for something that would "stop people dead in their tracks," preferably with political humor that would play well in the district.

"People in D.C., they take themselves very seriously, but most of them know that they do - unless, of course, you're in Bush's Cabinet or something," she said. "And then it's not funny."

How did the pitch go over with official Washington?

The National Security Agency, no surprise, was mum. White House spokeswoman Erin Healy stated the obvious: "This is not something the White House authorized."

Does that mean Live Baltimore could be in hot water for using Bush's grinning mug in an ad, even if the center shelled out $800 for the right to use the Associated Press photo?

"I think it would be a matter for [the Department of Justice] and litigators," Healy said, ominously.

Gosson was a little worried that along with new residents, the ad would draw black-ops political types to Baltimore.

"If I mysteriously disappear," she said, "you'll know why."

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