Kaitlyn Nielsen, marketing account director for CommuterAds, with Russ Gottesman, the founder of the company, in their Water Street District offices. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
Photo: Thomas Gnau/Staff
Photo: Thomas Gnau/Staff

Growth pushes CommuterAds to new market, division

Dayton-based technology advertising firm CommuterAds is expanding with a new division and its newest transportation market.

The Milwaukee County Transit System agreed to a five-year contract with CommuterAds to provide digital audio and visual text scroll advertising.

It’s the 14th and third largest U.S. city to provide this Dayton-devised technology to advertisers, the company said. The audio ads in Milwaukee begin Monday.

The first local advertising customer will be the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Said Russ Gottesman, CommuterAds founder: “We truly are a national company now.”

With this newest market, CommuterAds is also announcing a new division, CommuterAds Midwest.

The division will be based in Chicago, from which Gottesman and Katie Hill-Gottesman, originally hail. Melanie Guardino will be director of CA Midwest.

But by no means does the Chicago headquarters represent a step away from Dayton, Gottesman emphasized in an interview.

“If anything, it just solidifies our position here in Dayton,” he said. “The company has grown exponentially.”

Being able to support a new division overseeing five big markets in the Midwest only makes the Dayton presence stronger, he said.

“The corporate headquarters always is in Dayton, Ohio,” he said.

“We can now support having this extra branch of what we do,” said Kaitlyn Nielsen, marketing account director for CommuterAds.

Since first launching in Dayton at The Entrepreneurs Center in August 2008, CommuterAds has won transit contracts in all five major Ohio cities. With the addition of Milwaukee, the company now reaches over 300 million riders annually with an opportunity to offer advertisers a national solution to reach local transit customers with ads targeted down to the city block, making over 2 billion impressions each year.

Gottesman makes a key distinction: The company is a tech firm, not an advertising firm.

CommuterAds bills itself as the the world’s only GPS location-based media that allows local business to reach riders through audio and digital text scroll messaging on board buses and trains.

The concept is simple but powerful, company leaders say: Bus and train passengers hear and see commercials for schools, businesses and just about anything else as they pass key locations. A Greater Dayton RTA rider approaching Third and Ludlow downtown may be exposed, for example, to a Sinclair Community College ad on fall enrollment.

“Think of a 15-second radio commercial that comes over the (bus) speaker system,” Gottesman said. “But at the same time, you have the digital text scroll.”

Besides Milwaukee, CommuterAds Midwest has a presence in Chicago, Kansas City, Mo.; Des Moines; and Champaign, Ill.

Gottesman and his employees regularly ride buses in client cities to get a feel for how their technology is working. Nielsen said she road a bus in Toledo recently, and Gottesman rides RTA regularly.

Nielsen started with the company as a University of Dayton student and intern. She has seen the company grow from eight markets to 14. “I think we’re just going to continue to grow,” she said.

Gottesman expects future announcements, but the pace depends on overall demand and the support the company receives. He has received inquires from transit systems and interested observers in London and Israel.

“It really is limitless,” he said.

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