Dumb Ways to Die is a PSA campaign by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia to promote rail safety. The 2012 ad campaign was created and implemented by ad agency McCann Melbourne. It ran on internet, print and radio mediums, instantly becoming a worldwide hit.
The ad campaign took the form of a video featuring cartoon characters killing themselves in grotesque but stupid ways as a catchy melody loops in the background, warning us that there are “dumb ways to die, so many dumb ways to die.“
The message of the campaign was to warn passengers of rail trauma and accidents, mostly due to straying a bit too close to the railway tracks. The video was uploaded on 14 November 2012, and has managed to garner 195 million YouTube views and 200 million downloads to date. The song used in the video was released on iTunes and peaked at the ninth and 38th positions in Belgium and the UK respectively, Within just two weeks of release, the video inspired a staggering 85 parodies on the Internet.
The cute approach to the grave problem of railway accidents helped cut the number of near-miss accidents by more than 30%, according to Melbourne Metro Trains. “The biggest improvement was in the number of collisions or near misses with vehicles and pedestrians at level crossings,” said Leah Waymark, Metro’s manager of corporate relations, in an interview with Australian newspaper publication The Age. According to Metro, there were 13.29 near-misses per million kilometers traveled by Metro trains on Melbourne’s suburban train network.
In May 2013, Metro built on the campaign’s massive success by introducing a “Dumb Ways to Die” mobile game for iPhone users. The interactive game allowed players to collect points each time they saved their character from dying in one of the ways depicted in the video. In September 2013, the game was expanded to Android users, and in 2014, Metro released a sequel to the game named “Dumb Ways to Die 2: The Games,” and 2017 saw yet another game release by the railway company called “Dumb Ways to Die 3: World Tour.”
The ad campaign’s success, both online and in preventing rail accidents, won it widespread recognition and awards, including seven Webby Awards, three Siren Awards, the Grand Trophy in the 2013 New York Festivals International Advertising Awards, and the Integrated Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
All in all, the ad campaign’s cuddly cartoons and extremely catchy tunes managed to leave a lasting impression in audience’s minds, securing a place as one of the most successful PSA campaigns of all time.
PS- Like reading ad reviews? Check out my other article reviewing another award winning ad campaign here.