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Ad agency for Aspen resigns

Brent Gardner-SmithAspen Times Staff Writer

Take two large advertising agencies specializing in tourism. Hire one in Snowmass Village. Hire another in Aspen.Have them spend close to $100,000 each on research, focus groups, account planning, production and creative fees.See them both do ineffective winter marketing campaigns costing over $400,000.Part ways with both of them within a year.That’s the current state of Aspen/Snowmass resort marketing as Praco of Denver and Colorado Springs has resigned the Aspen Chamber Resort Association account, which is funded by a bed tax in Aspen.Earlier this year, the Snowmass Village Resort Association and the Florida firm of Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown parted company. The agency prepared a poorly received winter campaign, and the SVRA ran out of money for summer marketing.Last may, ACRA’s Marketing Advisory Committee voted unanimously to hire Praco, which handles the Colorado Tourism account.Then the committee endorsed the agency’s research, its creative approach and its ability to closely track results through Web site traffic and calls to specific toll-free numbers.On Monday, ACRA president and CEO Hana Pevny received a Fed Ex package from Praco resigning the account.”I think it was a time for a change of direction,” said Will Seccombe, vice president of advertising at Praco, in a phone interview. “The marketing committee changed goals and tactics.”Praco was hired to implement a two-year campaign, said Seccombe, and it worked fast to launch the “Aspen Effect” campaign by mid-January.It was designed to attract 25- to 44-year-old “sensation seekers” from Dallas and Los Angeles to Aspen for the first time.”We want new people to come to Aspen,” said ACRA Marketing Advisory Board chair John Sarpa last August.The ACRA spent $414,000 with the agency, only to see $34,000 in lodging revenues in return, said Pevny.Seccombe said it was too early to see results and that it was designed as a two-year effort.But when Pevny, who has a background in technology sales and marketing with IBM, Wang and Cisco, took over the top job at ACRA in April from Chris Nolen, she found that Praco’s contract was renewable on April 30.She told the agency she wanted to review the winter campaign results and the direction of the summer campaign.”Praco was charging me $125 an hour for account planning,” said Pevny, who estimated that $155,000 of the $414,000 was spent directly on consumer media.Now Pevny wants to bring public relations, community relations, on-line marketing and database management in house.”In terms of looking at the overall strategy, when Praco was selected, they basically did everything,” said Pevny. “I’m looking at a marketing strategy that will give us more control.”Pevny also canceled Praco’s planned summer direct-mail campaign to 125,000 Dallas and L.A. residents and decided to spend the money on ads and links on Web sites such as AOL.com, CNN.com, People.com and MapQuest.com, where Pevny says 975,000 people will see them.That may have helped prompt Praco’s resignation. “We are a good tourism marketing agency and not a real good reactive order taker,” said Seccombe.Pevny plans on making a recommendation on a new agency to the ACRA board on May 28.


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