Ad of the Day: Cycle Safety

A stunning PSA about the accident that changed James Cracknell forever

On July 20, 2010, James Cracknell, a British Olympic medalist in rowing and sometime cyclist, suffered a near-fatal bike accident outside Winslow, Ariz., during an attempt to cycle, row, run, and swim from Los Angeles to New York. The crash left him in critical condition and resulted in lasting brain damage. It could have been worse had he not been wearing a helmet. Now, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of his accident, Cracknell has stepped up to film a cycling-safety spot from AMV BBDO in London titled "Use Your Head. Use a Helmet."

"I used to be James Cracknell," he says. "I'm not anymore." (The copy is wonderfully, frighteningly bracing throughout.) As he explains the series of events that left him a different man, physically and mentally, we can see (and, unsettlingly, hear) a reenactment of the damage inflicted on his skull and brain as a truck's mirror struck him at 70 mph—the cracks, the swelling, the crunching sounds. Seeing it so plainly makes you realize just how fragile we really are.

When he came out of intensive care, Cracknell says, his short-term memory was gone, he had no motivation, and friends said his personality had changed. Sounds pretty grim—but Cracknell insists, "I was lucky." If he hadn't been wearing a helmet, he would have died. "I make the choice to wear a helmet," he says. And as he straps one on, it's clear why.

Client: Cycle Safety, U.K. Department for Transport
Spot: "Use Your Head. Use a Helmet"
Agency: AMV BBDO, London
Creative Directors: Phil Martin, Brian Campbell
Producer: Louise Richardson
Production Company: HSI, London
Director: Chino Moya
Executive Producer: Simon Monhemius
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Bill Smedley
Postproduction/VFX Company: The Mill, London
VFX Producer: Matt Williams
Shoot Supervisor: Mike Chapman
2-D Lead Artist: Richard de Carteret
3-D Lead Artist: Dave Lawson
3-D Artists: Adrien Flanquart, Luke Tickner, John Wood
Assists: Scott Dawkin, Kirti Dave
Colorist: Aubrey Woodiwiss