Opinion: Dumb Ways to Die

In the words of Metro Trains:


So what’s it all about?

Dumb Ways to Die is a YouTube video and song which delivers a train safety message in an innovative way. It features cute singing and dancing characters dying in a multitude of ways to illustrate that getting hit by a train is a “Dumb way to die”.

The ad was created by McCann Melbourne for Metro Trains, Melbourne’s rail operator.

Leah Waymark, General Manager Corporate Relations of Metro Trains, said that they had set out to find an innovative way to reach young people. “We wanted to engage with young people in a way we think they [sic] might appeal to them a bit more.” she said.

The insight

Trains are predictable; they arrive at a pre-determined location at a pre-determined time on tracks (i.e. they can’t deviate from their path!). Since they’re so predictable, getting hit by a train is a dumb way to die.

The creative

McCann created humorous, amiable animated characters to juxtapose the serious tone of the message. They sing and dance to the catchy tune of: “Dumb ways to die, so many dumb ways to die …” giving examples such as eating superglue or using a clothes dryer as a hiding place. Towards the end of the 3 minute clip, the cute characters begin demonstrating train related deaths—the “Dumbest ways to die”—such as driving around the boom-gates at a level crossing.

Was it successful?

This YouTube phenomenon was an instant hit (YouTube has confirmed it is the fastest ever spreading Australian viral brand video). Within 24 hours of its launch, the song reached the top 10 chart of iTunes and was ranked 6 in the singer/songwriter category globally. The video tallied 4.7m views over its release weekend. The Herald Sun pointed out that this figure means the video had been seen by more people than live in Melbourne! Currently, only a week since its launch, the video has amassed over 17m views.


Pro et contra

The good:

  • It’s a refreshing new take on the traditional PSA safety message.
  • It engages viewers, both young and old.
  • It has a snappy and attention grabbing headline.
  • It’s a catchy song which get’s stuck in your head (although, this isn’t always a good thing!).
  • The video is shareable!
  • It has clearly been successful in terms of YouTube views.
  • It illustrates the message clearly.
  • They’ve managed to deliver their message to millions with zero media spend!

The bad:

  • Does the humour and light-hearted–ness detract from the safety message?
  • Are they treating a serious issue too lightly?
  • Does the clip take too long to get to the point? It takes nearly 2-and-a-half minutes before the first train related message is delivered. I personally think the entire video should have been about half the current length.

Maybe they did some research which said 3 minutes is the optimal duration to get a tune stuck in someone’s head? “Dumb ways to die, so many dumb ways to die …”


I’d like to see how the rest of this campaign rolls out. If the subsequent elements are not engaging then it’s likely the ad will die out just as quickly as it grew. But if McCann follows up with some kick-ass offline media to remind people at the point of danger, it’s got the potential to have a real impact.


Related: Dumb Ways to Die and social media bullshit  (mUmBRELLA).

5 Replies to “Opinion: Dumb Ways to Die”

  1. I think there is a flaw in the insight behind this ad. The assumption that metro trains are predictable is completely absurd. You could be standing on the train lines outside the scheduled train times and you would not be safe (P.S. I am not advocating this risk taking behaviour, it just had to be said!)

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