Ad agency steals entire ad from University of Illinois

UK advertising agency WCRS has just unveiled its new TV ad for “Think!” – the government campaign for safer driving.

The ad is ripped entirely from a copyrighted video produced by Daniel J. Simons at the University of Illinois. It’s been on the internet since 1999.

See for yourself. Here’s WCRS’s TV ad:

 (all other YouTube uploads of this ad have been removed after complaints – if this one goes down, you can see the video at – press Skip Intro and it’ll start).

To see the original video, from the University of Illinois, go to this webpage:

Copyright owner Daniel Simons has been informed. His response was: “I created the original “gorilla” video. It is not public domain. It is copyrighted, and I own the copyright. This ad agency never contacted me. They just stole the idea and didn’t bother to change it at all.”

Unfortunately, because of transatlantic copyright law issues, prosecution may not be an option. But we can at the very least shame WCRS into admitting they stole his idea without consultation and made money from an idea they’re passing off as their own.

Posted by hollymb  |  8 Comments  |  in Uncategorized


  1. The Doctor What 03/11/2008 5:59 pm

    Why would you think this is a copyright infringement? They redid it entirely. The concept wasn’t even new when Daniel did it.

    Yeah, great, they are making money from it but it’s not like they copied the video, they just reused the concept.

    It’s too bad their bear suit wasn’t better, it’d be funnier.


  2. ad guy 03/11/2008 9:48 pm

    Would the Dove evolution ad still deserve all the awards it won if it was a complete copy of a student project from a university study on female self awareness?

    It’s one thing to like the idea and go in a different direction. It’s another to rip it off.

    Congrats Hacks!

  3. nomad 03/11/2008 9:51 pm

    Yyes, they re-shot it, but everything else about it was identical. Another case of an agency passing off something as their own when it is so clearly not.

  4. Anonymous 03/11/2008 11:52 pm

    nahh, no leg to stand on. plus its a good cause so get over it.

  5. Stewart 03/12/2008 10:15 am

    Not just “transatlantic copyright issues” – it’s not a copyright problem, period. Copyright covers works and not ideas. You can’t copyright an idea and in any case he wouldn’t be entitled to it – the study he did was based on someone else’s: “These videos are based on earlier studies by Neisser and colleagues” from

    Besides, it’s a public safety film not a commercial advert – in the spirit of the original as it’s educational not aimed at making a profit.

  6. kelly 03/12/2008 12:13 pm

    nice blog & video

  7. iggy 03/12/2008 9:01 pm

    It’s not a copyright issue but it is thievery. It may be a public service ad but agencies still get fees from public service clients. You can also bet WCRS won’t hesitate to put the spot on their reel and mention any awards it wins when they’re wooing new clients.

    Ideas aren’t legally protected, but good creative agencies like WCRS make their money off being innovative and imaginative. They would be irate is someone ripped off one of their ideas and ran it in the US. This is no different.

  8. bob 03/12/2008 9:36 pm

    I work with ad agencies, they probably charged 30K to do this, and that is a ‘no profit’ charge for a PSA, scumbags

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