City of Columbus Issues RFP For Marketing & Communications


The Smart Columbus Program Management Office (PMO) is seeking qualified integrated marketing communications agencies to submit proposals to develop and execute an innovative, data-driven, consumer-facing integrated marketing campaign that will shift consumer behavior from single car occupancy to multi-modal transportation though a new Multi-Modal Trip Planning Application/Common Payment System (MMTPA/CPS) and Smart Mobility Hubs (SMH).

Beating out 77 other cities, Columbus won the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, earning a coveted global platform to design the city of the future. Columbus received a total of $50 million in the form of two grants: $40 million from USDOT and $10 million from the Paul G. Allen Philanthropies (the “Foundation”). This money provides the seed funding for Smart Columbus, a region-wide Smart City initiative co-led by the City of Columbus and Columbus Partnership. Columbus is acting as a laboratory for Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and disseminating lessons learned and best practices to cities across the United States in an effort known as Smart Columbus. The goal of the Smart Columbus project is to connect people by creating opportunities for Columbus-area residents to better access jobs and services while improving the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation network. The City of Columbus, under the leadership of Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, is the lead recipient of the $50 million, which will fund a portfolio of technology deployments, transportation pilots, and community education programs until March 2021.

The USDOT portfolio includes 9 projects (see Appendix A: USDOT Portfolio). The projects are grouped together by the following themes:

                • Enabling Technologies: leveraging existing technologies in new ways,

                • Enhanced Human Services: connecting people to jobs, opportunities and services through       technology, and

                • Emerging Technologies: cutting edge technologies like self-driving vehicles

                                o Both Multi-Modal Trip Planning Application and Smart Mobility hubs fall under the                                       enhanced human services theme.

The Multi-Modal Trip Planning Application aims to be a one-stop-shop to plan a travel itinerary based on user preferences such as fastest, cheapest, or greenest using different modes of transportation available along a route within central Ohio such as car-share, ride-share, bike-share, public transit, etc. The application will also include a Common Payment System that will allow travelers to pay once and the funds will be divided and delivered to the different mobility providers on the back end.

Scope of Work:


Shift transportation habits of Central Ohioans from single occupancy car usage to multi-modal mobility options. Expand mobility access for Central Ohioans who lack access to a personal vehicle.

·         Create awareness of MMTPA and SMH

·         Drive downloads and trail of MMTPA

·         Drive foot traffic to SMHs

·         Drive new and repeat transactions within MMTPA

·         Drive usage of services at SMHs

Basic Services Required:

We welcome the strategic and creative input of the selected agency partner as to the most effective strategies and tactics for achieving goals. Services may include:

Project and Account Management

·         Onboarding project team to Smart Columbus vision and projects

·         Develop, manage and execute the master project timeline

·         Develop, manage and administer the project budget 

·         Participate in regular client status calls 

·         Deliver project deliverables on time, on budget and to client expectations

Creative Development 

·         Develop multiple creative concepts for media campaign in coordination with media planning/buying team

·         Present concepts to client, to be refined prior to campaign testing

·         Refine one concept, based on research findings

·         Execute creative concept across mediums

Creative Testing

·         Develop research methodology to validate and select a creative concept

·         Conduct 2 focus groups (Smart Columbus Linden Liaisons and other community partners can help identify focus groups participants)

·         Develop report summarizing findings and recommendations for creative refinement

Media Planning and Buying

·         Query appropriate media outlets

·         Refine media responses into media recommendation in coordination with creative team

·         Negotiate added value media

·         Place and manage media buys

·         Refine and optimize media allocation

·         Report on media performance

Community Relations

·         Develop local influencer relations strategy

·         Recruit and onboard influencers

·         Manage relationships with and deliverables from influencers

·         Report on social and influencer performance

Shared Media Strategy

·         Develop social media content to support integrated campaign

·         Report on social performance

Collateral Design and Production

·         Design and copy write educational collateral supporting campaign objectives, which may include pocket card, one-pager, map, brochure, etc.

·         Copy write monthly consumer-friendly updates on project

·         Execute production and distribution of collateral pieces

Reporting and Measurement

·         Based on program strategy, develop reporting and measurement plan

·         Develop benchmarks

·         Report on Key Performance Indicators to Smart Columbus

·         Identify project key learnings

Project Deliverables 

Contract may include completion of the following as the lead Provider or assisting other Smart Columbus teams/partners in creation of the following deliverables, subject to rounds of refinement:

·         Agency team roster

·         Introductory meetings with Smart Columbus teams, partners, and vendors

·         Project plan, including milestones, timeline, measurement/KPIs and budget

·         Regular status reports

·         Monthly progress reports for the Smart Columbus Program office to submit to the USDOT and the public

·         Creative concepts

·         Concept testing research methodology recommendation

·         Concept testing research summary and recommendations

·         Media plan

·         Production of advertising creative, across multiple mediums

·         Influencer relations strategy

·         Influencer recommendation

·         Designs for collateral materials

·         Produced collateral materials

·         Monthly, quarterly and campaign completion performance reporting

·         Blog and PowerPoint slides on lessons learned about project marketing campaign

·         Participation in brainstorms, as requested


·         The Provider shall allocate time to attend bi-weekly coordination/progress meetings with the City

Due Date:

December 23 


Agencies with relevant experience includes APCO Worldwide and Zeno Group.

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