APTA | Passenger Transport
February 16, 2009

In This Issue


Greater Dayton RTA Introduces Audio Ads on Board

The Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag contains 31 words. “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” has only 14 words. Now the public transportation system in Dayton, OH, has partnered with an audio ad company to send messages to commuters in 10 seconds.

The Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority has teamed with Commuter Advertising, a Chicago-based startup, to broadcast the 10-second advertising messages, using an annunciator system already installed on RTA buses. As a result, existing technology finds a new, revenue-generating purpose by providing local businesses the opportunity to reach transit riders with their messages.

“The RTA found an innovative marketing opportunity in our operations infrastructure,” said Marketing Manager Sabrina Pritchett. “We found a way for our technology to work even harder for us.”

Pritchett said businesses are always interested in talking to RTA riders, so this advertising program fills a need in the market.

The RTA recently reinstated its print advertising program and, at the same time, became a pioneer by implementing an audio program. The agency’s bus annunciator system, developed by Continental, already uses Global Positioning Satellite software to make stop announcements; Commuter Advertising expands this system to provide dynamic advertising opportunities.

With this program, a local florist can broadcast a brief message to commuters on Valentine’s Day as the bus approaches the flower shop. At the same time, the transit agency can take advantage of an important new revenue source.

Commuter Advertising developed proprietary methods to sell, manage, and upload transit audio commercials. Over a period of 90 days, the RTA worked closely with the advertising firm to coordinate the engineering activities required to upload audio on the buses. They designed test activities to mitigate risk to bus operations; now the RTA can seamlessly upload new ads on a weekly basis.

In addition to the audio announcements, Commuter Advertising offers 10-word text scrolls on LED bus screens, also powered by the RTA’s annunciator system.

“Rider feedback revealed intrigue in both short-format audio and visual content. The combination results in a rider who is interested to learn more about the stores they pass every day on their commutes,” said Katherine Hill, chief operating officer for Commuter Advertising.

“Our agency works with businesses to identify RTA locations and rider groups in a thoughtful way that enhances the commuting experience. Since the message must be relevant to riders for our program to succeed, we’ve developed tools that make transit schedules come to life for the marketer,” Hill added.

Within the first 30 days of beginning a multi-year contract with RTA, Commuter Advertising signed more than $25,000 in advertising contracts, working with both local and national clients.

“Commuter Advertising uses our transit data to project revenue based on a variety of factors, including the total number of annual riders and media spending in Dayton. So far, the program has been a success. We now have 15 to 20 new clients already spending money with the RTA,” Pritchett said.

Forecasts call for the sale of limited inventory to maintain a premium product and avoid intrusiveness. Commuter Advertising and the RTA are surveying riders regarding the types of advertising messages they want to hear and their opinion of the new advertising program.

Initial reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, especially when riders learn that a portion of the generated revenue comes back to the RTA, helping to maintain service and stabilize fares.

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