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Caritas owner to introduce itself in local Super Bowl ad

By Johnny Diaz
Globe Staff / February 4, 2011

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The local television audience for Super Bowl XLV on Sunday will get the usual array of high-impact commercials, from the suds of Budweiser to the sedans of Kia Motors. But amid all the elaborate productions, one quieter spot might stand out — an ad for Steward Health Care System, the Boston company formed to oversee the six Caritas Christi hospitals.

During the 30-second commercial, Massachusetts residents talk about the importance of quality health care, as the camera roams through Brighton and Dorchester — the homes of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center and Carney Hospital.

There was no such marketing campaign for the hospitals before November, when they were bought by New York private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. The ad will be broadcast only on WFXT-TV (Channel 25), not nationally.

Officials at Steward said they were looking to introduce the health care service company to customers who may have never heard of Steward. The campaign also further demonstrates a different marketing approach for the regional hospital network as it transitions to a for-profit health care player.

“Super Bowl advertising is usually reserved for products or brands,’’ said Geoff Klapisch, a Boston University advertising professor. “It’s a bit unusual for a service industry to step in, but it’s a smart move, especially if they are looking to introduce themselves to the marketplace for the first time.’’

Brian Carty, chief executive marketing officer at Steward, said that’s the aim: make a debut during the Super Bowl to reach a large swath of local consumers.

“You can only launch a brand once, and we wanted to launch it in the biggest way we could,’’ said Carty.

Steward worked with Waltham ad firm Boathouse Group to produce the ads, which were shot locally over three days.

Carty would not say how much Steward is spending on the campaign. But a 30-second spot airing during the Super Bowl on WFXT, for example, is selling for about $80,000, according to local ad executives. WFXT officials would not comment on their ad rates.

“We are spending what it takes,’’ said Carty.

Steward isn’t the only regional company with a Super Bowl ad. Staples Inc., based in Framingham, will also run a spot on WFXT in select regional markets around the country.

The animated ad, created by New York agency McCann Erickson and called “Here They Come,’’ follows the journey of several high-tech items such as laptops, printers, and tablet computers as they migrate to Staples. Once they arrive, the products happily flood through the door and prop themselves on their proper shelf.

Steward’s spot will air twice Sunday, before and during the Super Bowl. In the next few weeks, another spot with a similar theme will run on other local stations during prime time network programs.

Steward’s marketing initiative will also include digital ads and some print advertising in local newspapers where the company has hospitals.

In addition to St. Elizabeth’s and Carney hospitals, Caritas hospitals include Norwood Hospital, Holy Family in Methuen, Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton, and Saint Anne’s in Fall River.

Klapisch added that the Super Bowl can help a company promote its brand and message even if the ad only airs locally. About 2.4 million people in the Boston TV market tuned into WBZ-TV (Channel 4) to watch last year’s Super Bowl, according to The Nielsen Co.

“It’s one of the few shows on television where people tune in for commercials, so viewers will be paying attention,’’ said Klapisch “There aren’t many media opportunities where you can get over a million TV households tuned in at the same time.’’

Johnny Diaz can be reached at jodiaz@globe.com