Dumb Ways to Die Campaign

You may remember this entertaining, slightly disturbing viral hit from the end of 2012:

The PSA music video by Metro Trains (Melbourne, Australia’s metropolitan rail service) broaches the subject of train safety in an unconventionally lighthearted way. It has become a worldwide internet sensation, the winner of the AdNews Ad of the Year, and “the fastest growing Australian viral internet hit ever”, according to the creative advertising agency behind the animation, McCann Australia. As of May 2013 the video accumulated almost 46 million views.

McCann’s goal was to make young people listen to and retain Metro Trains’ cautionary tale. There is no better way to do that than to turn the message into a cultural phenomenon, says the company. What makes this PSA especially interesting is how easily it overcame the boundaries of traditional advertising and went viral. After being posted online, the video was picked up by local Australian news stations and played on nightly TV news bulletins across the country. People were captivated by the video and made hundreds of covers and spoofs. Content was spread through Soundcloud, Tumblr, and Instagram, where you can find fan art, fan accounts, and even nail art featuring the animated characters. The song was initially played on the radio as a paid advertisement, but eventually stations started playing it for free as part of their lineup. The song was made available on iTunes in over 30 countries, reaching the top 10 chart in some.

We love these gifs from the original video, found on the ad’s Tumblr account:

“Dumb Ways to Die” has become the most shared PSA in history and the 6th most shared ad ever, making this low-budget ad very, very cost effective. It is estimated that McCann generated $60 million in free media coverage.

Since the video, McCann has released a fun, interactive website complete with a red button that you push (or click) and therefore “solemnly swear to not do dumb stuff around trains”. So far the website has racked up 1 million pledges. It is populated by all the animated characters seen in the video, ready to act out their dumb ways of dying at the click of the mouse. Check it out here.

McCann didn’t stop there.

Earlier this year new print ads were released using the animated characters and short poems generated from the original song.







Apps for the iPhone and iPad are also available.


Has the campaign made a difference in the number of rail-related injuries and deaths?  It seems so. Although it is early in the campaign, McCann Austraila’s John Mescall reports a 21% reduction in track-related accidents. The Age, an Australian newspaper, reports that the biggest improvement can be seen in the reduction of “collisions or near misses with vehicles and pedestrians at level crossings”.

The “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign is still in its launch phase and we are curious to see what will come next.

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