What better place for Alex “The Dude” Bogusky to debut his new bike-sharing program than before this standing room-only crowd in bike-sympathetic Austin? Well, he didn’t think they’d let an ad guy talk about bike sharing at SXSW–although we highly doubt that they would have barred entry to La Bogusky and his adoring fans–so instead, his presentation is entitled “Sticking Your Nose Where it Doesn’t Belong” and includes a full range of nose puns and imagery (cue first image of Bogusky’s nose inches away from someone’s butt).
In fact, just about everything Crispin Porter + Bogusky has been able to accomplish has been a result of sticking their noses where they don’t belong, says Bogusky, from the anti-SUV Mini campaign to just about every uncomfortable situation they create for that creepy Burger King character. And when it came to bike sharing, it wasn’t any different. When they moved the firm from Miami to bike-crazy Boulder, they saw an opportunity to make a difference by getting a few cars off the road, and they just started doing it.
They looked at Paris’ successful bike sharing program Velib, but when it came to finding the answers for their own program, it came from within. They tapped Dave Kingsbury, an employee at CP+B who commutes to work even in the snow (even rigged his ski boots to clip into his pedals, sweet!), as their biking expert, and connected with city officials in Boulder. They partnered with health care company Humana, whose vested interest in health and exercise made them an ideal collaborator, and then tapped Trek, longtime client and friends of the agency, to design the bikes. Enter B-cycle, a three-part bike sharing collaboration.
They designed a system that corrals the bikes into sleek solar-powered stations. The graphics are based on a “B” that they designed to look like it had been part of city iconography forever, just like the “P” for Parking. Trek designed a custom one-size-fits-all bike (not easy) that’s extra-rugged for city riding, and will handle repairs through their dealer network. You swipe a credit card (or use your B-cycle membership card), the locking system releases the bike, and away you go.
The bikes were tested on the DC Mall with the National Park Service, and in Louisville with three stations on the Humana campus. They also had bike sharing stations at both Democratic and Republican conventions where they logged 7523 bipartisan bike rides. 100 bikes are going into Denver once the funding is secured (cheers for this announcement).
Bogusky says that a large city requires a $1.8-million-a-year investment to maintain it, but that’s the most interesting part: Paris’ Velib system is actually managed by outdoor advertising company JC Decaux and funded largely by would-be billboard advertisers. Bogusky thinks this program is even more sustainable because their bike system is made for ads: The front basket of the bike is a TV-sized surface begging for some clever message. Plus, since it’s new, they’re sure to attract more eyeballs than a bus shelter. Someone who’s working on the committee in Denver says the sponsorship won’t be the problem, it’s pricing. They think they’ll be able to give the first half and hour of rental away for free, to encourage people to use it, but are having a hard time deciding how much to charge, and how much people will want to pay.
Someone makes the comment that this is not advertising but more like design thinking and asked if CP+B is trying to become the next IDEO (prompting some low, sustained “oooohs” from the crowd). “Many great products market themselves and don’t need the overlay of marketing,” says Bogusky, by way of skirting the question. “IDEO could become an advertising agency.”
“But this isn’t about bike sharing, this presentation is about noses,” Bogusky reminds the audience (shot of Bogusky, finger inserted in nose). “It’s about doing something a little bit outside of what you’re doing every day. The best thing about technology is that we’re nine times as productive as we used to be, but you don’t have to focus that productivity on one thing, you should sprinkle it around.” We’re guessing we should listen to him; after all, Bogusky nose best (couldn’t resist).