CHICAGO: Megabus.com has brought on Current as PR AOR for North America following a competitive review that included proposals from more than 50 firms nationwide.
Megabus, a subsidiary of Coach USA, selected Current and sister brand experience agency Jack Morton Worldwide in January, following an RFP process that began in September. The company whittled down the candidates to five finalists, including Current and Hanser & Associates, the incumbent on the account. Megabus’ relationship with Hanser & Associates ended on January 31.
Current’s responsibilities include developing and executing strategic communications programs and initiatives. Through media relations and influencer marketing, the team will work to build brand awareness and demand. The firm will work with megabus’ in-house team to support its social media efforts.
"Megabus is a huge way to travel for people on a budget," said Amy Colton, Current EVP, about the brand, which is known for its $1 seats. "A lot of what we are doing is targeting college kids through ambassador campaigns on campuses, in partnership with Jack Morton."
Current will also help megabus celebrate its 10th anniversary in the U.S. Sean Hughes, Coach USA and megabus.com’s director of corporate affairs for North America, said he could not yet elaborate on what that campaign would look like.
"Megabus started in the U.K. and has been growing in the U.S.," said Colton. "It is changing the way people are traveling because of the cost, but it is also one of the most environmentally friendly ways to travel, so we are excited to help them celebrate that."
Hughes said Current will also help the company communicate about its safety efforts and how megabus goes "above and beyond" what the federal government requires.
Last month, Lucas Peterson, a travel writer for The New York Times, live-tweeted the "explosion" of a megabus he was traveling on. No one was harmed, according to media reports.
Update: the bus exploded. pic.twitter.com/Sd0rBYN714— The Frugal Traveler (@frugaltraveler) February 21, 2016
The incident attracted negative press for megabus and some questioned the safety of "bargain buses."
"It was not an explosion; it was a bus fire," said Hughes, when asked for a comment on the matter. "And we do not want to be compared to bargain buses – we are an affordable, inner city bus company."
He added that Current did not help megabus with its response to the matter, as the firm’s responsibilities are focused on "more positive, general" company stories. Its internal team deals with crisis matters.
"Safety is one of our top priorities," he said, noting the company has had seatbelts in its buses since 2007, a measure not yet required by Congress. The buses also have GPS tracking, and elements including tire pressure, tire heat, and speed are monitored 24/7. The buses also have systems in place to ensure drivers do not doze off while on the job.
Megabus also requires nine hours between shifts, while most companies in the industry require eight. Last year, the company launched the Green Roads initiative, which gives drivers instant feedback on their driving.
The bus company decided to do an agency review to gain new ideas and different perspectives on the company’s PR, explained Hughes.
"We selected Current because their presentation came from a different angle," said Hughes. "A lot of thought, effort, and research was put into it and they presented some really good ideas."
This is the first time Current and megabus are working together.
The RFP listed the budget as $900,000 for the year. The contract is for 12 months, with an option to extend to two more years.
Colton will lead account work from Current’s Chicago office. She will manage a core team of five staffers, plus the Jack Morton team.
"So many of us at Current have had positive experience with the [megabus] brand," Colton said. "When the RFP came through, all of us could relate to it. Our enthusiasm for the brand helped to set us apart [from competitors]."
Megabus.com operates service in more than 120 cities in North America and 23 hubs.