Resort association defends city-funded ad campaign | AspenTimes.com

Resort association defends city-funded ad campaign

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Although the Aspen Chamber Resort Association has received the preliminary results from its winter advertising campaign, several officials say it’s too soon to determine if Aspen is getting its money’s worth in bookings.

The two-year “Aspen Effect” campaign, aimed at luring first-time visitors, is being funded by a local lodging tax. The goal of the campaign is to bring in $6 for every $1 spent, earning $1.5 million by the end of the second year, based on a $250,000 investment.

“It is too early to come to any conclusions about the campaign’s efficacy,” said board member John Norton, the Aspen Skiing Co.’s chief operations officer. “I simply didn’t know what to expect in this first year. I think my expectations were somewhat lower than others, but I had no firm number in my head.”

According to the Denver-based advertising and public relations firm hired to conduct the campaign, paid advertisements in Los Angeles and Dallas have led to 380 phone calls, 4,500 Web site hits, 22 e-mail requests for more information and roughly $100,000 in bookings through Stay Aspen-Snowmass.

Another $200,000 to $300,000 is estimated to have come in from other bookings in the community as a result of the campaign. But the firm told ACRA representatives that exact figures on bookings are difficult to determine. The campaign is designed to track bookings through its Web site and calls to a specific 800 number.

The campaign, launched in January, will begin its summer push in mid-May. More paid advertisements are planned for magazines in the Dallas and Los Angeles areas, as are mailings to 150,000 people in those areas who fit profiles of skiers or people who have flown to Denver.

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Molly Campbell, chairwoman of ACRA’s board, said she “absolutely” thinks the community is getting its money worth from the campaign thus far.

“Our first advertisements and this portion of the campaign only started in January, and so to say we need instant, overnight results is unrealistic,” she said. “And it’s really not fair to both the advertising agency, the staff and the people that really worked hard to put this together.”

John Sarpa, ACRA marketing committee chairman, said for now, the committee will be continuing to track data from the ad campaign and will hopefully get the community involved with how taxpayer dollars are spent. The board of directors will also begin looking into the winter campaign for 2002 and 2003 as soon as possible.

“I think we found ourselves trying to catch up in January, since our campaign started when most campaigns were completed,” Sarpa said. “But our bed tax was passed, we formed a committee, chose an agency and developed a game plan. When we were finished, it was the eleventh hour for the winter campaign. Now we’re busy asking questions: what worked, and what didn’t.”

Norton said there is room for Aspen’s January campaign, which could be coordinated with campaigns run by Skico and Stay Aspen-Snowmass.

“January has become our biggest month in terms of reservations made, so to say that everything must start in September is incorrect,” he said. “Aspen ought to be visible in September, and Aspen still ought to be visible in January. The question is, who is doing what, when? The three marketing entities ought to make efforts to coordinate.”