Gittens sees ‘more’ success ahead with new ad venture

Donna Latson Gittens, the Dorchester woman who is the founder and co-principal of causemedia, inc., came up with a novel way to celebrate her company’s 15th anniversary this year: She launched a second company, a new advertising agency aptly named MORE, that she has founded with partners Judi Haber and Brian Latham.

“MORE is a continuation of our mission,” Gittens told the Reporter. “What we decided was that we love doing mission-oriented work. We just wanted to do more of it. MORE advertising will continue to be a nimble and reliable partner to all of its client partners by delivering above-the-noise messaging with bottom-line results.” 

The firm, while based in Newton alongside parent company causemedia, inc., has strong Dorchester roots through Gittens, a Roxbury native who has been a longtime resident of Ashmont Hill. She and her husband, Bob Gittens, have raised a son and a daughter in Dorchester — his hometown— and have been big boosters of the neighborhood for years.

“I love living in the city. I have no idea where I’d be if I weren’t here in Dorchester. Our kids have had a great life experience growing up here. Yes, there’s drama sometimes, but welcome to city life.”

Gittens’ career in marketing and mass media was forged at WCVB-TV, Ch. 5, in the 1980s and 1990s, when she led the station’s efforts to engage the community through campaigns like “World of Difference.” Gittens left the affiliate in 1997 to launch her own company and leveraged her large Rolodex, a newly-acquired master’s degree in business, and industry know-how to become one of the few minority-owned and woman-led marketing firms in the region.

Fifteen years later, causemedia’s clients include the Boston Red Sox, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, and the University of Massachusetts. The company bills itself as a “boutique” firm that pitches “very specific ideas to very specific audiences.”

“We’re nimble, creative and can deliver on time and on budget. And while some larger agencies assign puppies to the account, we have experienced professionals who do the work.”

Gittens is one of those professionals. In addition to leading the firm, she has been hands-on in managing big name accounts like the Red Sox. She has been so closely associated with the Sox in recent years that she was even presented with championship rings from the club in 2004 and 2007. Although she’s rarely visible on the field, Gittens has played a key role in crafting some of the organization’s key campaigns, including the annual Run to Home Base event that raises millions for wounded veterans.

“I’m most proud of our long-term relationship with the Sox,” Gittens sais. “We’re in our tenth season now and I’ve learned more from them. We do a lot of work with their community relations, including print work and design work and supporting ABCD, the Genesis Fund, and the Jimmy Fund.”

The Run to Home Base program was inspired by a visit to the Walter Reed Hospital during the Red Sox World Series victory tour in 2004-05. After meeting with President Bush at the White House, the Sox players and coaches visited wounded soldiers at the sprawling hospital in Maryland.

“When Larry Lucchino and the Red Sox saw the reaction, it clicked that the power of baseball and quality medicine can really change their lives,” Gittens recalls. “If I’m doing my job right you’re not supposed to see me. It’s not about us, it’s about the client.”

Still, Gittens’s success through causemedia, inc. has made her a high-profile figure among ad executives in the region, especially since there are still few minority or female led firms locally.

“As a woman of color, I still don’t see as many in the business. It’s still a ceiling that hasn’t been broken through. I am probably one of the few that owns an ad agency, at least in Boston.”

Gittens and causemedia, inc. have also been behind some successful public health campaigns in Massachusetts, including one aimed at smokers who are pregnant.

Next up for Gittens and MORE is an awareness campaign targeting veterans and another advertising-driven effort for UMass Dartmouth.

“Based on the advertising work we have recently completed for UMass Dartmouth, we will continue to build our practice for colleges and universities,” Gittens said. “We’d like to deepen our experience in financial services and demonstrate how social media can help grow their business.  And, finally, given our experience in healthcare, we want to be the conduit to share information about the Affordable Care Act across the Commonwealth.”