MapQuest selects agency for new direction

DENVER: AOL has selected 104 West Partners as AOR for MapQuest, to reenergize the brand.

DENVER: AOL has selected 104 West Partners as AOR for MapQuest, to reenergize the brand.  

Caroline Campbell, VP of corporate communications at AOL, told PRWeek that AOL typically does not enlist AORs, but it, “really wanted to turn up the heat on this brand for it be increasingly competitive.” She said several firms were considered, but no RFP was issued. She declined to give a budget.

MapQuest formerly worked with Sterling Communications. Representatives at the agency were not immediately available for comment.

The PR strategy for MapQuest, part of AOL's local and mapping division, will play into its parent's company larger “turnaround” narrative. AOL, newly separated from its unsuccessful merger with Time Warner, is angling for a comeback story in 2010.  

“The agency has been brought on to combat the competitive environment,” Campbell said, noting competitors like Google Maps. “AOL is in a turnaround situation, so based on [CEO] Tim Armstrong's strategy, local is one of our major strategic buckets going forward.”

AOL's other strategy areas include advertising, content, AOL ventures, paid services, and consumer applications.

For its push, MapQuest will key into its three core consumers: local users, vacationers, and business travelers with a strategy combining traditional PR and social media. The team is in the process of developing the details, but the plan will incorporate shared sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as outreach to a wide range of media, bloggers, and analysts.

Campbell said 104 Partners was selected for its technical expertise, its proximity - both companies are based in Denver - and its strong referrals.

Patrick Ward, a partner at 104 Partners, said, in terms of scope of work, MapQuest is one of the agency's largest clients.

“They are in a dynamic and highly competitive space,” Ward said. “And they do have a rich brand heritage.”

He described the brand as being at “an inflection point” and the agency will help it to “articulate its innovations and navigate this with its core users.”

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