Lila Hunt, Vice President, Display
Stewart Marlborough, President of Organic

Marina del Rey, CA
System1 logo. MapQuest logo.
A classic of the early internet

Before we all carried smartphones in our pockets, people in need of directions often turned to MapQuest. While the company’s origins actually date back to the 1960s, MapQuest truly took off in the ‘90s as a go-to resource for early internet users.

Fast-forward over two decades and it’s now second nature for us to pull out our phones when we need directions. While the landscape has changed dramatically for MapQuest, that didn’t stop ad-tech veteran System1 from taking a big swing and acquiring MapQuest in 2019.

The thought of supercharging growth doesn’t intimidate System1 — after all, massive growth lies at the heart of their story. In their humble early days, System1 started out subletting space next to Snapchat. Today they have a staff of 350, are publicly traded, and generate over $1 billion annually for their network partners.

Leveraging System1’s partnerships with Google has been a valuable component to their acquisition and growth strategy — in fact, Lila Hunt, System1’s Vice President of Display, calls it the #1 reason for their success.

“We’ve worked with Google going all the way back to 2002,” says Lila. “It’s been quite a run, and along the way we’ve used Google’s ad platforms to give our properties the sophisticated technology and customer-centric solutions they need to succeed.”

Between System1’s engineering-first approach and Google’s flexible ad platforms, everything was in place to turn around one of the internet’s most historic brands.

Lila Hunt in the office.
MapQuest gets a revamp

Originally, MapQuest monetized their site through their proprietary ad stack — but System1 quickly rewrote this process, transitioning them to a cutting-edge programmatic display stack that focused on leveraging and optimizing open market and PMP deals in a scalable and efficient manner.

“We grow our brands by optimizing inventory, identity signals, demand partnerships and price floors,” explains Lila.

But this process isn’t always a straight line. System1 tests iteratively to refine how they use Google Ad Manager and other ad serving tools. Getting MapQuest’s strategy right was the direct result of the years and effort that went into the collaborative System1-Google partnership.

“Google’s end-to-end value for publishers is undeniable; both in ad serving capabilities and demand opportunities. Google collaborates with us on MapQuest’s unique monetization strategy which has been integral to our growth,” says Lila.

System 1 Team.
Integrating MapQuest into their portfolio

Over the years, System1 has worked piecemeal to scale up its publishing portfolio. For a while, these different acquisitions functioned in silos — and these acquired companies continued doing what they were doing, just under a new umbrella. But in recent years, System1 has worked to integrate these separate publishers around a more cohesive vision.

“We really believe in extending the value of our acquisitions by interconnecting them with other parts of our business,” says Lila. “This might mean that our search sites help our publishing sites and vice versa — all along the way, we’re trying to align our assets in an optimized way.”

To help boost MapQuest, System1 acquired route planner app RoadWarrior in 2022. System1 then integrated the two sites so that MapQuest users would have a more expanded feature set. Better yet, MapQuest users could subscribe in order to access route planner features, opening up a whole new revenue stream alongside ads.

“Ads are a great way to keep our services free for consumers while driving great value for advertisers. We love that Ad Manager offers lots of options to test and prioritize different revenue strategies along with the support of robust and easily accessible reporting.”
Reaching new destinations

While MapQuest initially experienced challenges in adapting to the evolving landscape of the internet, the site now has wind in its sails. The staff has expanded to over 20 dedicated team members and a collection of contractors tapped on an as-needed basis. It’s also part of System1’s larger organization, benefiting from their support staff in business intelligence, data science, and accounting.

Getting the chance to reinvent an internet classic excites System1, offering users a diversity of options when it comes to looking for directions.

“We live in a world where more and more of the apps and tools and features that consumers use every day are provided by a very small number of large companies that continue to consolidate the offerings,” says Stewart Marlborough, President of Organic.

“These large companies offer great solutions, but they might not be perfect for everyone. Having an offering such as MapQuest gives an alternative to people looking for something not tied in with a vast, larger data ecosystem.”

As users turn to MapQuest to get a fresh alternative from some larger competitors, Lila and her team are happy to have a partner in Google that helps them effectively monetize.

“Ads are a great way to keep our services free for consumers while driving great value for advertisers,” says Lila. “We love that Ad Manager offers lots of options to test and prioritize different revenue strategies along with the support of robust and easily accessible reporting.”

About the Publisher

Lila Hunt is an advertising leader with a strong focus on the global sell-side digital ecosystem, boasting 15 years of experience in ad technology, monetization and business strategy. Currently serving as Vice President of Display at System1, Lila has been instrumental in driving strategic digital ad initiatives. With a strong focus on managing client solutions, developing strategic partnerships and providing thought leadership, Lila has consistently delivered revenue growth and innovation across her diverse roles in the digital advertising industry.

Stewart Marlborough, President of Organic at System1, is a seasoned leader with over 18 years of experience in digital media. Stewart currently leads System1's organic properties, corporate development, M&A, as well as SEO and Display teams. He has a strong track record of crafting effective strategies, driving meaningful revenue growth and fostering cohesive teams. System1’s diverse organic portfolio includes key brands like CouponFollow, MapQuest, Startpage, HowStuffWorks and
Two headshots