The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

River City Bicycles takes ad campaign to the airwaves

Posted by on October 29th, 2008 at 10:34 am

“It’s fun putting together advertising directed at more of the general public. I just try to put myself in their place and think of a message that might crack through.
River City Bicycles owner Dave Guettler

If you watch local network television, you might be surprised to see a commercial for River City Bicycles. It’s not typical for a local bike shop to produce a TV ad, but River City’s Dave Guettler, is not a typical bike shop owner.

Guettler is known for his creative ad campaigns. Back in March, BikePortland contributor Carl Larson wrote that his ads go “beyond the ordinary”.

This is Guettler’s second TV ad (watch it below) and it features a stressed-out, antacid-popping man, whose sweating in a hot car, stuck in gridlock traffic on an empty tank of gas. It then pans away to a woman on a bike on a highway overpass. She shakes her head at the sight of the gridlock below and then pedals serenely away.

Guettler told me his goal with these ads is to share a “meaningful message” and that it’s directed at more of the general public. He can’t get himself to do the “typical product-oriented advertising”. “That stuff drives me crazy when I see it” he says, “and I assume other people feel the same way. I just try to put myself in their place and think of a message that might crack through.”

Here’s the ad. Do you think it “cracks through”?

[*Disclaimer: River City Bicycles is an advertiser on but that had no bearing on my decision to publish this story.]

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  • the future October 29, 2008 at 10:54 am

    ha…..i have the same thought pedaling over 84 on the 28th st. bridge every morning on the way to work.

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  • John Lascurettes October 29, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Might have “cracked through” more if the rider wasn’t so young and hipster. Should have shown an analogue to the grumpy driver (someone same age and demographic) that is happier riding.

    Instead, it’s a bit of a disconnect message-wise. Ends out looking like us and them in demographics.

    Just an opinion of a daily bike commuter. He really should be asking the grumpy drivers that he’s trying to reach how the ad tests with them.

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  • toddistic October 29, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I dig it!

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  • spork October 29, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Where is her helmet?

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  • red hippie October 29, 2008 at 11:16 am

    She is too cool for a helmet

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  • patrickz October 29, 2008 at 11:20 am

    No helmet..but otherwise I dig it. It almost feels like a public service announcement of the “Read books” kind.

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  • armando October 29, 2008 at 11:23 am

    i’m definitely not a advertising professional, but…
    1. it’s not obvious to me that he is popping antacid tablets(they look like lifesavers.
    2. the “honking” is too much.
    3. i would have preferred if the cyclist was wearing a helmet, especially in a commercial from a bike store!
    4. the driver wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. maybe there’s an analogy to the cyclist not wearing a helmet?

    Maybe the “no helmet” in ads is a trend. i recall a recent bike gallery print ad where the cyclist is walking his bike in the street, and there is not a helmet in that ad either. but i guess since he’s only walking in the street and not riding, it’s ok. ; )

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  • Brad October 29, 2008 at 11:28 am

    I agree with John (#2). Good try but Joe and Jane Autocommuter see a FIT YOUNG woman and make the excuse, “If I were younger and thinner…” or “She must not have a “real” job because I have to wear a suit and that just won’t…” et al.

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  • Thomas Le Ngo October 29, 2008 at 11:33 am

    I get her feeling all the time. It’s great.

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  • Bingo October 29, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Love it – reminds me of a thread over at “What if bike ads were more like Car ads?”


    Clever Cycles and Metrofiets seem to be heading in this direction too.

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  • Moo October 29, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Sorry…seems a bit overly dramatized without the “beyond ordinary” edge I was waiting for. But it makes a point.

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  • E October 29, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Love it.
    But I too would have liked to see a more business-commuter type on the bike.

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  • John October 29, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    I like to wave at traffic jams from those bridges. Maybe a longer ad, ending with driver getting an idea, next scene he’s pedalling over the traffic jam smiling and waving.

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  • Grant October 29, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    I liked the commercial, but I thought the car commuter was overdone. Harder to empathize with him then if the director had manage to capture that quiet desperation that comes from being stuck in traffic. The frustration at having a little bit of your soul sucked away, not the freak out that was portrayed.

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  • dgc October 29, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    “PICK ME! PICK ME!!” (with hand up waiving wildly).

    I am 52, the perfect demographic as I ride everyday to work, get a little sweaty, have to change into business clothes, then change to go home.

    Could get a great shot of me in the Men’s room changing! Picture a slightly flabby – and I mean slightly – normal-to-still-pretty-good-looking guy climbing out of tights and compression shorts! Great chance for a naked-behind shot, to add a bit of sex appeal for the ladies, too!!

    That’ll sell bikes!!!

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  • Lodel October 29, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    Helmets send a message the riding a bike is dangerous. Besides, she’s on a bike path riding at a moderate speed. About as dangerous as riding an escalator.

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  • Steved October 29, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I think it does “cracks through”. Although I do agree with others here that it would have been more effective if the bicyclist had been the same age as the driver. River City’s ad reminds of the famous anti-drug commercial showing eggs frying eggs in a pan – “Your brain on drugs”.

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  • Val October 29, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Ideally, this could be the first of a series with similar or even identical tag lines. That way, a wider spectrum of car and bike commuters could be protrayed. It’s only a 30 second spot – there’s no way to hit every demographic in that amount of time. Heck, if there were a few more of these, we could even see some footage of families, big loads and folks in foam hats. Stay tuned for the next installment….(I hope)

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  • Jim October 29, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Helmet?! Come on RVB!

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  • Kasandra October 29, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Dave and everyone at RCB — Good work! Thanks for investing in the airtime. I’m excited to see that bicycling is sufficiently mainstream and profitable that it is worth going to TV… or at least worth trying. I also appreciate that — as always — RCB is selling the concept of bicycling, not emphasizing their shop. This is reminiscent of some ads that the BTA had on KGW back around 2000. Jessica, are those online somewhere?

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  • Kathleen McDade October 29, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Agree it would be nice to have a “real” person as the cyclist — but remember, that doesn’t happen much in advertising. Otherwise, I like the concept.

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  • bArbaroo October 29, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    I really like that it departs from the usual ad-art-pre-packaged-media-kit productions that is more typical of bike shops. It has soul, it’s real, and that speaks to me. Kudos to Dave for using video media to reach more folks with his real message -ride a bike.

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  • joeb October 29, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    I get a kick out of riding past traffic jams.

    Yeah this could be a good series of commercials. One of my biggest peeves is driving around looking for a place to park. Idling and creeping around several laps waiting for a space to open is about the worst thing you can do in a car. The amount of space required to store parked cars and the sheer glut of cars making acres of parking insufficient is obscene.

    John #13 pretty much stated my experience. Now when I’m sitting in a car stuck in these traffic situations… I look longingly at the bike lane and get mad at myself. I like to make a scene for my GF. “Who are all these Freaking Idiots on the road? Can’t some of these losers stay home? Whose insane idea was it to put all these ridiculous cars on the road? Is everybody making a Walmart run today?” Of course it’s tongue-in-cheek as I’m sitting in my car contributing to the problem.

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  • Anonymous October 29, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Where the hellmet is the helmet? It’s a good ad but cmon! I’ll admit helmets are not attractive but the point of this ad is now to commute without a helmet??

    Hey girly, watch out for that car!

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  • Joe October 29, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    I love riding to work every morning, sometimes seeing the same people cut me off. LOL ( all smiles tho ) people think
    i’m a crazy’d bike nut. nah!

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  • Donna October 29, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Helmets tend to alienate people who don’t normally ride bikes for transportation. That’s just the way it is.

    I am confident that if this ad got someone in the door at River City, they would definitely get the “helmet lecture”.

    It’s not like the actress is too young to legally ride with no helmet – at least on the Oregon side of the Columbia.

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  • Schrauf October 29, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Wow, the helmet prophets are out in force.

    I wear a helmet on many rides because of course there is some degree of increased protection, but it is definitely not a requirement for me to hop on a bike. Personally, if safety were my primary concern, I would strap on a helmet when driving or using stairs, before I would worry about a helmet while riding a bike.

    The best way to encourage cycling is to show non-cyclists that a multitude of special gear is not necessarily mandatory.

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  • Joe October 30, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Donna and Schrauf I tend to feel the same way you both feel about helmets. well put!

    I knew guys that would yell at people on the other side of the road to get a helmet,
    productive nope, while some still have a choice they can make it themselfs.

    just my 2cents

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  • shanana October 30, 2008 at 7:41 am

    The freeway and the bikers shirt lead me to believe this is about commuting. But the road the biker takes at the end of the ad is nothing like a commute that’s near a freeway. And not a single car on the road? It makes the rider look like they’re on a recreation ride rather than a commute. I would love to see the biker riding off in a bike lane while passing all the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

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  • Kt October 30, 2008 at 9:11 am

    I like the ad, and have to admit that the helmet-less-ness didn’t register with me.

    Although all the honking was a bit over the top… I’ve sat in traffic jams on the freeway, and nary a horn is heard. I think horn-honking is more of an East-coast thing.

    I too would like to see a follow up ad of the car circling for a parking spot while the bike commuter rolls up, locks up, and heads into work with a smile. 🙂

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  • Amy October 30, 2008 at 10:31 am

    I like the ad; it’s great to see that cycling can be more casual, similar to Europe.

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  • tdub October 30, 2008 at 10:55 am

    As the director of the spot, I really appreciate the comments, both praise and criticism. The helmet matter could have gone either way, in retrospect, I would have been wise to shoot both options. As for “too much honking”, yeah, it’s a bit over the top, but that’s showbiz. As for the leap of going from a traffic scene to a bucolic ride in the park, yeah, it was a “reality leap”, but I wanted to emphasize the contrast as deeply as I could. As occurs most of the time, I have fits of “producer’s remourse”, but it was a very fun project and thanks to Dave for trusting us to work on it. And thanks for all of your comments.

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  • Coyote October 30, 2008 at 11:51 am

    My (non-Styrofoam) hat is off to River City Bikes (RCB). With the world potentially staring at a Grapes of Wrath scenario, it would have been real easy for RCB just sit on that advertising money. Instead RCB offers up a public service announcement full of good intentions.

    RCB, you got my business, next time I am in town I will make a point of dropping by and spending some rapidly evaporating money there. Maybe I’ll buy a helmet, nah, just kidding.

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  • Sarah O October 30, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    More accurate is the cyclist riding off, only to be narrowly missed by some douchenozzle in a beater blowing through a stop. Like all car commercials, the “desired product” is shown on a serene, natural and completely empty street. Nice message to the uninitiated, and one I certainly understand, having shaken my own head on many an overpass myself. It would’ve been nice to see an older commuter on the bike though, helmet or no. It does sort of enforce the stereotypical divide.

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  • Lame. March 22, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Holy crap. Why not wear a helmet?

    I’m SO tired of the “well, I wear a helmet most of the time, but obviously I can keep myself safe and control weather/motor vehicles/sidewalk cracks/max tracks. Oh, and I’ll never end up dead (see Natasha Richardson) or in a nursing home, with my loved ones wiping drool off my face, while they wait for me to die.”

    Because you know what? It might just happen.

    Just wear a helmet. What’s the deal? Your life’s not worth $40?

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