Kids on Bikes Outride ADHD in This Cinematic, High-Energy Ad From Goodby Silverstein

Directed by Johnny Green, the spot breaks during Tour de France

Kids seeking to break the frustrating cycle of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder take to the streets on their bikes in this fast-moving ad from the Specialized Foundation, an offshoot of Specialized Bicycle Components that touts cycling’s positive effects on health and well-being.

Research shows that biking, and other forms of exercise, can help ADHD students find focus and improve their ability to pay attention. The spot aims to get the word out to parents, teachers and healthcare professionals.

Dropping during today’s coverage of the Tour de France, “Outride ADHD” follows a middle-school kid who can’t seem to sit still and concentrate on his assignments. We watch him grow increasingly edgy as he gazes blankly at a computer screen, stalks around his house and stares out the window into the distance.

“If I could have any superpower,” a youthful narrator begins, reading copy culled from interviews with ADHD students, “it would be the ability to just hit pause and just be able to catch up with this world that I felt like was moving way too fast.”

The second part of the ad shows lots of kids—actual ADHD students—riding at a furious pace through the city at night, accompanied by projections of animated wolves and horses. Through sensors attached to their bikes, they actually control the speed of the animals depending on how fast they pedal. This symbolizes the power of biking to help them manage ADHD.

Goodby Silverstein & Partners developed the cinematic 60-second spot with director Johnny Green, who, along with agency co-founder Rich Silverstein, live with ADHD.

“When we got this opportunity to create something to help kids with ADHD, we learned that many of them don’t actually need medication, but just a way to release their inner energy to be able to focus,” GS&P creative director Sam Luchini tells AdFreak. “When we talked to kids with ADHD, some of them said they felt like they were caged or trapped. So we looked at the bike as a tool for them to release that energy and free them from that cage. We wanted to find a way for people to visualize this energy being released. That’s what the animals represent—the inner energy of these kids being freed.”

The projections are never really explained. (A ghost wolf’s after us! Pedal faster!) Agency creatives say the imagery shouldn’t be over-analyzed, but simply serves as a visual manifestation of the characters’ increasingly positive attitudes and evolving state of mind.

“Of course, we are always worried about whether people will understand the work,” says Roger Baran, also a creative director at GS&P. “But the animals, for us, are really about a feeling. It’s more important to engage with those characters and feel their freedom as they bike.” So, as long as the audience “understands how incapacitating it is to not be able to focus, connects with and roots for our characters and feels how free the kids are when they’re biking, we think we accomplished our mission,” he says.

The compelling narrative is driven by Green’s bold, quick-cut visual style. He builds tension nicely and releases the pressure in frenetic fashion during the final frames. We get a good feel for what the kids experience (a trend in PSAs today).

Green was a fine pick for a project rippling with energy and stressing hard-won personal achievement. He previously handled similar material with great style, most notably in Under Armour’s lauded “I Will What I What” commercial starring ballerina Misty Copeland. Here, he generates urgency and understanding without veering out of control.

The same couldn’t be said, however, for some of the spot’s young riders.