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MapQuest Unveils Two Ad Products

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AOL's MapQuest has added a pair of new ad products to its year-old Business Locator tool, which plots the real-world locations of advertisers' businesses by placing small icons on digital maps.

The online mapping site, which AOL reports reaches 40 million users per month, now features a navigation toolbar on its digital maps that lets users scroll through a list of pre-set searches for local business categories on each map, such as restaurants, bars, hotels and coffee shops. Marketers can pay to have their brand icons receive premiere positioning within this toolbar.

AOL has signed Best Western, Fairfield Inn and Holiday Inn as it premiere sponsors. The plan is to eventually have four charter sponsors per category, according to Christian Dwyer, MapQuest's svp and general manager.

Besides placing branded icons directly on digital maps, advertisers can feature their businesses along routes generated by MapQuest when users utilize the site to get directions. Users again select among a set of pre-set business categories to initiate this feature.

Ultimately, AOL hopes to provide advertisers with the ability to use this product to target users who are likely to be taking road trips in specific parts of the country, based on the particular region they are searching in and their mileage. For example, a brand like Dunkin' Donuts could plot its various locations along mapping routes only in the Northeast and only for searches which involve trips over 200 miles.

That product is viewed as a potential differentiator for MapQuest's burgeoning ad suite, according to Dwyer, one that will help push AOL past competitors like Yahoo, Google and Microsoft when it comes to monetizing mapping page views. "We definitely lead in this regard," he said. "Our older product [launched last year] brought us toe to toe with our competitors. This takes it to another level. We are the only mapping service out there with this type of ad experience."