Cannes Lions Dumb ways to die

The Perks of Playing “Dumb”

Do you know what the dumbest ways to die are? Australia’s Metro Trains and McCann Melbourne sure do (and that’s not all they know). If you haven’t seen their viral YouTube video yet, have a look.



Fifty million plus views (and counting),  several parodies and a mobile video game later, the three-minute-long “Dumb Ways to Die” video received five Grand Prix awards at the 2013 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The (not-so) secret ingredient in the big-hitting ad is virility (how they accomplish that though; ‘Aye, there’s the rub).

“Dumb Ways to Die,” which won awards in the film, PR, direct, radio and integrated categories, was able to move from a simple ad to a globally-exposed Internet meme because it was simple, catchy and unique. The story was central—it hooked audiences— while branding came in at the end. Essentially, when viewers first tuned in, they weren’t aware they were watching an ad until they were exposed to the three dumbest ways to die (pedestrian’s death by train, driver’s death by train and long-armed, under bite person’s death by train). The video’s title doesn’t even mention Metro Trains; rather, they decided to KISS (keep it simple, stupid) it, naming it “Dumb Ways to Die.”

The video’s “Dumb” characters lived to see another screen. Metro Trains released a website and a video game app as a part of the integrated campaign. The app’s description reads:

Brought to you by the creators of the original viral sensation, Dumb Ways to Die is a frantic action game that expands on scenes from the video. Tap, swipe, tilt and blow through one minigame after another and save as many characters as you can.

The campaign is award-winning, but does that make it good advertising?  According to their its, Metro Trains sought to reach the people who don’t practice safety (or intelligence) around rail road tracks:

 Most people are able to recognize for themselves that trains are big, fast and not to be messed with. But sadly a few people just don’t get it. And that’s why we’re running this campaign. To stop them from that brain fade, from doing something dumb and being hit by a train.

While it’s hard to definitively say Metro Trains has saved lives with this campaign, they have undoubtedly raised awareness to the dangers of stupidity (or dumbness, rather). In this sense, the unique campaign was a success beyond trophy triumphs.

Advertisers in the future may try to replicate the success of this campaign, but generating this kind of viral exposure isn’t an exact science. The meme-ability element as well as an all around catchy integrated campaign is certainly an aspiration for many in the industry utilizing the digital world, but those following this newly-blazed trail risk over-saturating the Internet and consumers with “catchy” videos– making these advertising gems farther and fewer between.

Cover Photo Source: Site Marca via Flickr

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Cassandra is a Content Manager and Developer at SJG. She earned her BA from Fontbonne University in 2011. Outside the office, she enjoys an active, healthy and well-rounded lifestyle including reading, writing, running, golfing, watching films, listening to music, taking photographs, and consuming media and social media.[/author_info] [/author]