He’s co-created major TV ads, like this one launching Apple’s iPad Air. He led the team that came up with Oregon Humane Society’s “End Petlessness” campaign and the concept for Oregon Public Broadcasting’s signature news show, Think Out Loud.
One year, in a gig he’s still sheepish about, he commuted weekly from California to Detroit to do ad work for Chevrolet.
“I can’t think of another bike shop in the country that does this,” said Reed, a freelance creative director who moved from Portland to Los Angeles in 2012, in a phone interview Thursday. “It’s kind of a life’s work kind of thing.”
Reed, 45, can’t remember the in-store conversation in which River City Bicycles owner Dave Guettler found out that Reed made ads for a living. He can’t even remember, until he checks his records, how long it’s been since he took the River City design gig.
Turns out it’s been 10 years.
When Guettler hired Reed in 2004, Reed was working as executive creative director at Portland-based Leopold Ketel and Partners. And, then as now, he was riding his bike. A lot.
In the years that followed, Reed and Guettler collaborated to develop the style of one of what must be one of the most interesting standing advertisement slots in the American newspaper industry.
“River City Bikes has been running ads with us for 17 years,” said Janet Norman, River City’s account executive at Willamette Week. “That doesn’t happen anywhere. They like the black and white rather than the color, which in this day and age is very unusual. … I don’t know where he comes up with these ideas, but some of them are brilliant.”
Norman said River City pays Willamette Week $600 to $800 for the same quarter-page spot every week. Reed bills Guettler by the piece.
Guettler, Reed said, often comes up with ad concepts during his bike commute from his home in Damascus to the River City shop, on Southeast Martin Luther King Boulevard in Portland.
“When I lived there, he and I would go out to lunch every other month or so, and he would share his thoughts with me and I would take them and interpret them into a little 6 by 6 ad,” Reed said.
By now, Reed said, the two operate on such a close wavelength that he usually doesn’t bother to run a new ad past Guettler. He’ll email it to Willamette Week and Guettler at the same time.
“The only reason those ads are any good is really because of Dave,” Reed said. “He’s a funny, funny person. And he understands that by promoting riding bikes — something like that — he’s helping out his shop.”
Sometimes, the ads go out of their way to avoid being pushy.
“Once a week,” a longtime tagline goes. “That’s all we ask.”
Others are edgier, like the series of silhouettes of people discussing their oil “addiction.”
Reed and Guettler go topical when they can. At one point, when Portland’s seemingly endless “bikes vs cars” sentiment seemed to reach a higher pitch than usual, this was the the ad’s response:
Then there was the ad he made one year for the Portland Mercury’s Sex Issue:
(In retrospect, Reed’s “a little embarrassed” about that one. And also “a little proud.”)
Reed, who lives near UCLA with his wife and son, doesn’t commute by bicycle right now but misses it. Instead, since he’s between major gigs, he said he tries to log 250 miles in the saddle each week to keep in shape. He says his dream gig would be to spend a year doing nothing but River City marketing work.
And also to think about his next River City ad. It’s due Friday.
“They just feel like little notes, little posters, little tiny tiny posters about how fun it is to be part of riding a bike in Portland,” Reed said. “It really comes down to: ‘It’s really fucking fun, riding a bike.’ …. As long as I’m true to the message that cycling is fun, commuting is fun, other things kind of fall out of it.”
Reed said that’s the experience he found as a customer at River City, one of the largest independent bike shops west of the Mississippi, so it’s what he tries to convey in the ads themselves: a sort of lighthearted familiarity.
“Dave makes all of the fixtures himself in his wood shop. The people that work there have been there for a long, long, long time,” Reed said. “People don’t stay at jobs that are not fun or rewarding or whatever. I think the ads are honestly an extension of that atmosphere. The ads are like smiles, you know, when you walk in. That’s what it makes you feel like.”
All images courtesy Reed and copyright River City Bicycles. Standard disclaimer whenever we write about River City’s WW ads: they’re a BikePortland advertising partner, too. We’d be writing this story even if they weren’t.