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Boise ad agency uses bikes to build culture, ease transit challenges

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When Ward Duft and Jill Watterson launched a new ad agency, they knew where they wanted to set up shop: Downtown Boise.

But like many businesses in the core, mobility and transportation presented a problem. Parking can be expensive for employees, and mass transit is, for now, still a limited option for many.

So they turned to vehicles of the two-wheeled variety: bicycles.

“We’ve always wanted to be able to lower our carbon footprint where we can,” Duft said of the agency he co-owns with Watterson – appropriately named Duft Watterson. “We also wanted to support the core of downtown. But doing that presented parking problems and mobility problems.”

Beyond just encouraging employees to ride their bike – they actually provide them with the wheels.

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“We decided everyone who joins the agency gets a brand new Linus commuter bike.”

The bikes line a wall in the office where employees “park” for the day – inside and outside of the weather inside their office space on Capitol Blvd. in Boise.

Solving the mobility riddle

“It afforded better mobility,” Duft said. “It makes it easier to come from the North End, the East End. But it also became a team-building activity. Sometimes on a sunny day, we’ll grab our bikes and go to a food truck across downtown that we might not usually go to.”

Not every employee rides their bike each day – either they live too far away or worry about weather.

“We have one employee who drives in and parks on the perimeter of Downtown and rides his bike in,” Duft said.

Downtown Boise’s still nascent efforts to expand bikability can present a challenge for employees getting to the office.

“There is a desire for more robust bike lane infrastructure,” he said. “Places like Front and Myrtle are deadly for bikes. People are forced to kind of hunt and peck their way in a lot of the time.”

Bikes as branding

He said the bikes are a piece of culture that help define the ad agency.

“We are a national ad agency that chose to be in Boise. That’s very appealing to a client who is in NYC, and are tired of the 40,000-foot meeting and getting lost in the layers of a large agency.”

He said employees that are healthier are happier – and it leads to a more creative, productive workforce. And it sends a signal about the agency’s branding for clients who want help with their brand message.

“It helps brands understand we are kind of a forward-leaning org that supports the urban core and all that comes with it. It’s hard to find a client that doesn’t like bikes.”

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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