But not all of his ideas were winners. His National Caring Network – a plan to buy all of the time on a cable channel and re-sell it to nonprofits for round-the-clock charity broadcasts – went nowhere.
"It presupposed that people wake up in the morning saying, 'Sweetie, it's time to give away more money—who should we give it to?' " Harrison said.
In interviews, Reid said he aimed for mass appeal, not influence over some elite demographic.
"You look at the big money that's given to charities: Where's it coming from? Not foundations, not corporate givers, not major donors, but from Johnny Lunchpail," he told The Times in 1985.
Born on Jan. 9, 1931, in Vancouver, Canada, Russell Charles Reid grew up poor and left school after 10th grade, his daughter Anne Oppermann said in an interview.
Raised in a fundamentalist church, he was convinced that he was meant to be a missionary in Peru. For years, though, he struggled against the growing realization that he wasn't cut out for that line of work.
"My father was a man who liked creature comforts," his daughter said, laughing. "I can't imagine him being a missionary in Peru. He wasn't a camper."
As a young man, Reid was program manager for a Christian radio station in Seattle. Before starting his own agency in Park Ridge, Ill., he worked for Word Publishing in Waco, Texas, a marketer of Christian books and records.
Headquartered in Pasadena with offices in Fairfax, Va., and Toronto, his 300-person agency was acquired by Omnicom Group Inc. in 1998.
Divorced in 1978, Reid is survived by Cathie, his wife of 30 years. In addition to his daughter Anne, he is also survived by his daughter Janis; sons Mark and Paul; eight grandchildren; and his brother Bob.