By Derek Kutzer | Staff Writer
Tourism Director Jennifer Green came before the Pagosa Springs Town Council at its June 6 meeting asking to waive the competitive bid process for contracting with outside vendors and to authorize Town Manager Andrea Phillips to enter into a professional services contract with two digital marketing firms for fall and winter advertising campaigns.
“The Town’s Purchasing Policy requires that the Town Council approve waivers of the competitive bidding process and approval for ‘sole source’ procurement with vendors,” states agenda documentation on the matter.
Green explained that the purpose of this agenda topic at the meeting was “a very tricky sole-source request” for the town to contract with two companies — Orange 142 and Madden Media — for upcoming advertising campaigns geared toward attracting tourism to the town.
Agenda documentation states that Orange 142 is “a newer option for consideration” and offers “highly targeted ad delivery, allowing us to find potential travelers that are more environmentally conscious, which allows us to find the type of visitors we would like to see, as Leave no Trace adherence is critical to protecting our natural resources.”
It also states that Orange 142 is ideal for “shoulder-season campaigns” and that the company specializes in the targeted delivery of video content, which “has dominated travel advertising in recent years.”
Madden Media, which the town previously worked with from 2010 to 2012, specializes in social media content and is now offering “new ways to reach different audiences on social channels,” agenda documentation states.
Green explained at the meeting that she wasn’t sure if Madden “will be in the mix” in the future, but that she would be monitoring the results of its ad campaigns.
Green described that the difference of working with these third-party platforms, instead of hiring a full-time ad agency, is that “we provide the ads to them and we dictate exactly the audience we want.”
She said that most ad agencies are not “necessarily focused on tourism” and that to cultivate an audience they mostly utilize data collected through airline and hotel travel that is not necessarily applicable to Pagosa’s unique tourism characteristics.
The town has $100,000 that the council already approved for marketing in its 2023 budget.
Council member Matt DeGuise asked Green if the budgeted money would be divided evenly between the two companies, or if it would be spent at the Tourism Department’s discretion should the council approve the sole-source request.
Green said that she doesn’t “like to put all our eggs in one basket, so I do usually split it evenly,” but “that mix may change based on the result” of the campaign.
Council member Gary Williams asked if hotel bookings had increased since the town added a booking feature to its Visit Pagosa website.
Green answered that it’s hard to tell with all the new ways to book lodging.
She emphasized that the website’s feature is not only intended “to drive bookings,” but to show “visitors to the website that we have different types of hotels.”
She also mentioned that the website connects visitors to the town’s newsletter and the travel planners mailed out to potential visitors.
When a motion was made to accept working with Orange 142 and Madden Media for late winter and spring advertising campaigns, for the combined amount of $100,000, waiving the competitive bid process due to the sole-source nature of the providers and to authorize town staff to enter into a professional services contract with the vendors, it was seconded and then passed unanimously by the council.
Later in the meeting, the council also approved a new staff position within the Tourism Department. This position will serve as an administrative assistant to Green, what she called her “right hand,” saying that she could use “some help” with her “overall efforts with tourism.”
It will be a full-time position, and by the time the position is filled, the new hire would serve out the remainder of the year, maybe five months, which would require that the salary be found within the 2023 budget, Green explained.
Green added that the Pagosa Springs Area Tourism Board believes that its budget could absorb the costs of paying the new staff position through 2023, but that a new line item would need to be created in the 2024 budget to pay the salary of the new position.
Council member Mat deGraaf said, “I’m really glad you are finally getting some help.”
A motion was made to authorize the Tourism Department to create a new position, with the funding for the position to come from savings and unspent line items and reserves from the 2023 tourism fund, if necessary.
The motion was carried unanimously by the council.