Details murky in new Aspen ad campaign | AspenTimes.com

Details murky in new Aspen ad campaign

Naomi HavlenAspen Times Staff Writer

A public relations firm reported Monday that after it spent over $250,000 on an Aspen advertising campaign, an estimated $100,000 in bookings has been placed with one local reservation agency.But precise results are difficult to track, noted several members of the marketing committee for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. In what is being deemed a weakness of the effort, many say the number of bookings received cannot be directly connected with the “Aspen Effect” campaign.The Denver-based Public Relations Advertising Co. (PRACO) put together the campaign meant to lure first-time visitors to Aspen. The campaign is paid for by a city lodging tax. Target audiences in Los Angeles and Dallas have seen ads in magazines such as Food & Wine, heard spots on National Public Radio and received mailings touting the benefits of a visit to Aspen. The campaign launched in mid-January.Although the campaign was to be carefully tracked through an 800 number and a Web site, Stay Aspen-Snowmass President Bill Tomcich said the results were “nebulous.””There were challenges in tracking this campaign to a tee,” he said. “Our number is an assumption based on how many people booked reservations after seeing the ad, and that’s very difficult to do. [$100,000] is our sincere best guess.”PRACO’s Will Seccombe presented the results of the first days of the campaign. It has generated more than 4,500 visits to the aspeneffect.com Web site and about 720 visits to the Stay Aspen-Snowmass Web site, he said.Stay Aspen-Snowmass has received 380 calls from the campaign and 22 e-mail requests for more information. Seccombe said the number of calls is not as many as anticipated. But he also said the ads may have influenced more people to visit the Web site – a component that may be altered in future advertisements to emphasize the 800 number.”I feel strongly that after 120 days of the campaign we’re on the right track, and as we go forward we’ll see the return on investment,” Seccombe said.Although the original goal was to generate $2.4 million in lodging revenue by the end of two years, the goal has been modified to bring in $1.5 million in two years.The initial investment, which was reduced from $500,000 to $400,000 because of reduced sales tax figures, has now been modified to $250,000. Tomcich noted that much of the money spent so far on research and the Web site for the campaign is a one-time expense.Besides the estimated $100,000 from Stay Aspen-Snowmass, Seccombe estimates that anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 was booked as a more indirect result of the campaign. He said that figure is a conservative estimate.”We recognize that a good number of people remember they saw the ad and do things like call their travel agents,” he said. “There are so many variables in the travel planning process, it’d be nice to say we tracked all of them, but in reality we just have to be diligent and track everything we can and try to monitor the ultimate success of the campaign.”Seccombe said the estimated returns are all that can be gleaned from the campaign until the lodging tax can be thoroughly tracked. Tomcich said the ACRA board of directors may look into what advertising devices can be used to more easily determine how many people are booking Aspen stays as a direct result of the ads.”We’re constantly learning what works and what doesn’t, and we’ve clearly learned recently how vague the campaign was,” Tomcich said. “We had a lot of phone calls and bookings, but we’re not sure what we want the focus to be on. But the point needs to be made that the campaign is in its infancy. I think we need to stay the course until we can put time in and learn how to better track these efforts.”And during a year when tourism was affected by Sept. 11, one small lodge owner said the ad campaign probably helped more than than it hindered.”[The results are] what I expected. This is a tough economy, it’s a tough life,” said Dale Paas, manager of the Limelite Lodge. “I’m glad we did do something, [rather] than just get caught not doing anything. But the reality is, it’s tough.”