Dayton company gets White House invite

Commuter Ads will reach teens in First Lady’s ‘Better Make Room’ campaign

Entrepreneurs try to think big, Russ Gottesman, president and chief executive of Dayton-based CommuterAds, said this morning.

But thinking big doesn’t necessarily mean expecting an invitation to the White House.

Still, that’s where six members of the CommuterAds team found themselves this week as the transportation advertising business was named an official partner in First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Better Make Room” campaign to encourage teens to focus on education beyond high school.

Gottesman said he often is asked why he started his company in Dayton in 2008.

“When I think back on this experience, it only validates, ‘Why not Dayton?’” he said.

“It was an extremely powerful and rewarding experience for the company,” said Adina Salah, the firm’s chief operating officer. “It really demonstrates the core of how we started here in Dayton, just a small and mighty team.”

The ability to “hyper-target” 14- to 19-year-olds for the Better Make Room effort put CommuterAds on the White House radar, Gottesman said.

With some six Dayton employees and perhaps a dozen total, CommuterAds has 13 contracts in 11 U.S. cities to advertise to “captive” riders on buses and trains.

After a national conference, company leaders were approached by a representative of the U.S. Department of Transportation to put that marketing muscle to work for Better Make Room.

Gottesman and Salah could not offer details on whether the partnership will mean a federal contract. A follow-up phone call with the White House is expected to iron out those details.

But they’re excited that CommuterAds was the only “new media” firm outside of social media to find itself in the East Room for the launch luncheon Oct. 19.

“Education is our wheelhouse,” Gottesman said.

CommuterAds calls itself the only company to use existing technology on buses and trains to broadcast geo-targeted ads. According to its business model, ad revenue is split with transit companies. It has contracts with transit comapanies in Cincinnati, Chicago, Tampa, Fla., Kansas City, Mo., San Bernadino, Calif., and elsewhere across the nation.

Better Make Room encourages teens to connect and support each other on social media. It’s aimed at “Generation Z,” those 14 to 19 years old.

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