Why 'Dumb Ways to Die' became a viral hit
Humorous animation and a catchy lyric win international awards for an Australian railway public safety ad campaign.
It's a silly but memorable tune, one you might find yourself singing out loud at inopportune moments, especially given that the song's chorus is "dumb ways to die, so many dumb ways to die."
But the three-minute animated public-service ad for Melbourne Metro Rail in Australia has become a viral hit. It has also been awarded two of the four top honors -- in the public relations and direct marketing categories -- at the prestigious Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity."Dumb Ways to Die" handles the topics of being cautious, staying safe and avoiding serious injury or worse around train tracks with a lot of humor. It combines a subversively sunny animation seemingly geared for kids with a catchy, laid-back tune whose lyric lists some truly stupid ways to go, including:
- Set fire to your hair.
- Poke a stick at a grizzly bear.
- Eat medicine that's out of date.
- Use your private parts as piranha bait.
"The campaign evolved out of discussion with platform staff and drivers who witness people risking their safety around train stations and at level crossings," Leah Waymark, Metro Trains' general manager corporate relations, told News.com.au.
There are also images and words that deal directly with life-threatening railway scenarios, including:
- Stand on the edge of a train station platform.
- Drive around the boom gates at a level crossing.
- Run across the tracks between the platforms.
Ad agencies are giving the public service announcement kudos.
"It takes what could be a gruesome and depressing message and makes it joyful and shareable and hummable and everything a great ad should be," Matt MacDonald, the chief creative officer with JWT in New York, tells Adweek. "I also appreciate that it gives credit to the audience that they can handle a tongue-in-cheek approach to such a serious issue."
"Dumb Ways to Die" appears to be working as intended. The McCann Melbourne ad agency, which developed the safety campaign, says rail-related accidents in Melbourne were down 20% in the three months after the ad's release.
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