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DDB Seattle To Push Upscale Resort Co. As Less Exclusive

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Denver-based Exclusive Resorts is set to launch what it says will be a $30 million marketing campaign from Omnicom Group's DDB Seattle to capitalize on the growth of the $450 million private-residence club category, according to a client executive.

The PRC category, a sort of high-end multi-location take on time-sharing, has doubled its sales in the last year, according to the American Resort Development Association in Washington. Exclusive Resorts, among the leaders in the category, with 1,200 members, is backed by majority investor Steve Case, the former chairman of America Online.

DDB won the business earlier this year following a review that began in October. The other finalists were WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather in Los Angeles and Interpublic Group's Gotham in New York, according to sources.

DDB will partner with its London office for European ad efforts. DDB Seattle executive creative director John Livengood said the mission is basic: to raise brand awareness and "get the phones to ring."

ER previously worked with independent Compass Marketing in Lafayette, Calif., and spent about $9 million last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

ER COO Michael Beindorff said DDB would manage all aspects of ER's marketing, from branding to direct mail; ad executions, set to break by summer, include print, online and collateral. The work will attempt to reach a wide variety of potential consumers, said Beindorff, including "empty nesters" and dual-income couples. But the club's core customer is the 40- to 55-year-old successful family man, Beindorff said.

"This (PRC concept) fits a lot of people," said Livengood, suggesting targets such as the up-and-coming executive with a bit of disposable income, a decision-maker used to visiting five-star hotels or luxury rental villas who is "starved for the right vacation experiences."

The PRC concept is "just beginning to be tapped," according to resort-industry analyst Richard Ragatz, president of Eugene, Ore.-based Ragatz Associates. While there are now about 20 major purveyors, Ragatz said that "more are being created as we speak."

Founded in 2004 by brothers Brant and Brad Handler, Exclusive Resorts originally targeted potential second-home buyers who were willing to splurge on a maintenance-free, amenity-packed alternative to private ownership. Initial membership fees average upwards of $300,000 with annual payments of $20,000 to $50,000.

While the campaign will be directed toward the wealthy executive, Exclusive Resorts intends to appeal to the whole family, Beindorff said.

As more travelers join the club, more properties can be purchased at more destinations, Beindorff said. Under Case's leadership, in just under a year ER grew from a 42-person vacation group to a 1,200-member club, with $750 million in real-estate holdings in 36 global destinations.

Now, the company has visions of multiplying those numbers by 10 in the next two years.

Livengood said the key to ER's appeal is that members always know what to expect. "Whether I go to Cabo or Steamboat or London, I know what I'm going to get," he said. "That's reassuring."