ACRA endorses a marketing shift | AspenTimes.com

ACRA endorses a marketing shift

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

With little debate, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association decided Tuesday to change its marketing course.

In a unanimous vote following scant discussion, the ACRA board of directors agreed to follow the advice of new ACRA President Hana Pevny to work with the same ad agency as the Aspen Skiing Co. ACRA will also work under the umbrella of the “Aspen/Snowmass” brand and will forego a direct-mail campaign this summer in favor of marketing on various AOL/Time Warner Web sites.

Last week, the Denver PR and advertising firm Praco resigned from the Aspen account, marking a disappointing first year of ACRA’s management of $400,000 in lodging tax revenues.

Last spring, the ACRA board heartily endorsed the recommendation of its former CEO and president, Chris Nolen, to hire Praco and target first-time visitors to Aspen.

But Praco’s research findings and its ads featuring a woman frolicking in the snow didn’t excite many community members or drive much business to local lodges, who saw only $34,000 in room revenue from the $400,000 campaign.

Then Pevny arrived in April to find $125-an-hour invoices from Praco on her desk and quickly advised the agency its contract was under review.

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Yesterday, Pevny got the ACRA board to agree to a new approach, which includes hiring an in-house marketing manager, on a contract basis, to manage next year’s marketing effort.

The marketing manager would be paid for from the lodging tax revenue. The position would be in charge of public relations, managing the ad agency, overseeing a part-time Web marketer to manage ads placed online, overseeing an Aspen/Snowmass Web site and improving the ACRA’s ability to manage a database of its customers.

In addition, Pevny got the go-ahead to contract with Sterling-Rice, the Boulder ad agency that the Skico used last season to create its “Night and Day” campaign.

The ACRA’s contract with Sterling-Rice would be separate from the Skico’s, but it is felt there would be a strategic advantage to using the same agency.

It wasn’t clear yesterday whether the new plan meant that ACRA would focus on advertising in the summer and let the Skico handle the winter advertising with its marketing effort, which is estimated to be in the $6 million range.

This summer, the marketing for Aspen includes print ads in magazines in Dallas and Los Angeles and $20,000 worth of online advertising on sites such as AOL.com and People.com.

Pevny also shared with the board a positioning statement for the Aspen/Snowmass brand. She cautioned it was a work in progress before reading it:

“Aspen/Snowmass is the epic destination resort for travelers of all ages who seek the ultimate mountain escape. Its ideal Rocky Mountain setting and exciting resort town provide the total package of outdoor mountain fun, culture, shopping, dining and heritage that can’t be matched.”