Edmonton Defends Epic Bus Ad, Which Looks Like a Carbon Copy of Famous 2012 Spot

Makers of Danish original also weigh in

The Canadian city of Edmonton, Alberta, has created an epic commercial about how cool it is to ride the bus. But it's like flashing back to a trip you've taken before.

Everything seems eerily familiar: the slow-motion footage of riders outrageously gleefully to find themselves on the bus; the tongue-in-cheek voiceover extolling the vehicle's "amenities"; the epic music cues; and especially the hirsute driver, with those shades, just too damn cool for their own reflections.

The two commercials below share those similarities. One is the Edmonton Transit System's "ETS Cool Bus," which went viral this week. The other spot, Midttrafik's "The Bus" from Denmark, was a huge hit in 2012, when it won the Epica d'Or in film at the Epica Awards and a gold at Eurobest.

Both clips are amusing and do a great job of portraying bus travel as convenient and desirable. Still … are the spots too close for comfort?

The 2015 ETS spot:

The 2012 Midttrafik spot:

ETS rep Jennifer Laraway tells Adweek that Edmonton has always acknowledged that "part of our inspiration came from the Danish video." Indeed, a Facebook post from May, when "ETS Cool Bus" launched, notes that the spot mirrors "a similar campaign in Denmark for a manufacturing company of buses." Laraway says that ETS will soon clearly credit its Danish source on YouTube and Facebook.

However, she hastens to add that while the Midttrafik ad served as a departure point, "we wanted ours to focus on actually taking the bus and the rider benefits of doing so. For example, you'll notice our campaign has several distinctions, such as safely being able to text (we have a provincial law here that it is illegal to use a handheld device while driving), reading, personal climate control, and references to our monthly transit passes."

What do the makers of the original "Bus" ad—who hadn't seen or heard of the ETS spot until we brought it to their attention—think of all this?

"We are a bit surprised, I must say," says Ronni Madson, vice president of M2 Films in Copenhagen, which produced "The Bus" for Midttrafik. "But we are trying just to be humbly flattered."

Midttrafik rep Britta Charmig suggests that, in some ways, the ETS commercial—created by Studio Post—stretches the definitions of inspiration and homage rather far. "Most scenes, the slow-motion effect and the cool bus driver have been directly copied," she says.

Still, the Danes aren't getting too melancholy about the situation. "We are proud that we have made a film that has inspired others to do almost exactly the same," says Charmig. "It proves that the idea was good and makes us sort of first movers in good and funny bus ads."

"They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so I suppose I am flattered on behalf of our team," adds Mads Munk, owner and founder of M2Film. "Maybe I should give up my job heading up a company who come up with original ad campaigns and become a cool bus driver myself!"

@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.