Dumb Ways to Die

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A screenshot from the animated video during the song's final chorus shows the characters and their resulting "deaths".

Dumb Ways to Die is a public service announcement campaign by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, to promote rail safety.[1] The campaign video went viral through sharing and social media starting in November 2012.[2]


The campaign was devised by advertising agency McCann Melbourne. It appeared in newspapers, local radio, outdoor advertising, throughout the Metro Trains network and on Tumblr.[3] John Mescall, executive creative director of McCann, said "The aim of this campaign is to engage an audience that really doesn’t want to hear any kind of safety message, and we think Dumb Ways To Die will."[3] McCann estimated that within two weeks it had generated at least $50 million worth of global media value in addition to more than 700 media stories, for "a fraction of the cost of one TV ad".[4] According to Metro Trains, the campaign contributed to a more than 30% reduction in "near-miss" accidents, from 13.29 near-misses per million kilometres in November 2011 – January 2012, to 9.17 near-misses per million kilometres in November 2012 – January 2013.[5]

Effectiveness and unwanted repercussions[edit]

Despite being a popular campaign, baseline statistics on near misses at level crossings in the target state of Victoria show no change.[citation needed]

The campaign received some criticism on the basis that suicide is one of the most influential causes of rail trauma, and the ad reinforces deadly trains as a possible suicide method.[6] Writing in Mumbrella in February 2013, a former employee of Victoria’s Department of Infrastructure advised critical thinking when evaluating claims made regarding improvements to safety. Reference was made specifically to the claimed 20 percent reduction in risky behavior as being "social media bullshit".[7]


A video was developed by Pat Baron, animated by Julian Frost and produced by Cinnamon Darvall.[3] It was uploaded to YouTube on 14 November 2012 and made public two days later. It used black comedy and featured "twenty-one characters killing themselves in increasingly stupid ways"[8] culminating in the last three characters being killed by trains due to unsafe behavior. It was viewed 2.5 million times within 48 hours[2] and 4.7 million times within 72 hours.[8] Within two weeks, the video had been viewed 28 million times. As of January 2014 the video has had over 68 million views.[4][9]

McCann released an "Official Karaoke Edition" of the video on 26 November 2012.[10]


Within two weeks, the video had spawned 85 parodies.[citation needed]

One of the most successful parodies is Dumb Movie Ways to Die on YouTube (which was uploaded 20 March 2013 by The Movie Maniacs). Animated by Simon Jago and Ryan Casey and performed by Rhonda Pownall, it featured "21 idiotic characters killed stupidly usually by whatever movie, such as Jaws, Final Destination 2, Layer Cake, Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith, Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Mist, The Wizard of Oz, Watchmen, The Ring, Kill Bill, Iron Man, Dr. Strangelove, Prometheus, Meet Joe Black, 300, Hellraiser, Volcano, Drive, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Starship Troopers[disambiguation needed]", though not in that order.

Other parodies of the original included one called Dumber Ways To Die[11] and another called Fun Ways To Die.[12]

There is also an "antidote" version, called Smart Ways To Live.[13]

There is also a GoAnimate version called "Sweet Things you Do."


The song "Dumb Ways to Die" from the video was written by John Mescall with music by Ollie McGill from The Cat Empire, who also produced it.[14] It was performed by Emily Lubitz, the lead vocalist of Tinpan Orange, with McGill providing backing vocals.[2][8] It was released on iTunes, attributed to the artist "Tangerine Kitty" (a reference to Tinpan Orange and The Cat Empire). Within 24 hours of its release, it was in the top 10 on the iTunes chart and on 18 November was the sixth most popular song globally,[2] ahead of "Diamonds" by Rihanna.[15] It was described as "Australia's biggest ever viral hit".[14] It also reached the top 10 on iTunes charts in Hong Kong,[16] Singapore,[17] Taiwan,[18] and Vietnam.[19] Within two weeks, 65 cover versions had been uploaded to YouTube.[4]


Dumb Ways to Die
Developer(s) Julian Frost
Samuel Baird
Publisher(s) Metro Trains Melbourne
Platform(s) iOS, Android
Release date(s) iOS
  • WW May 6, 2013

  • WW September 17, 2013
Genre(s) Puzzle game
Mode(s) Single player

In May 2013, Metro released a "Dumb Ways to Die" game as an app for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices.[20][21] The game, developed by Julian Frost and Samuel Baird,[22] invites players to avoid the dangerous activities engaged in by the various characters featured throughout the campaign.[23] Within the app, players can also pledge to "not do dumb stuff around trains".[24][25] The activities include things like getting toast out with a fork and poking a stick at a grizzly bear.

The game over screen for the app.

An Android version was also eventually released in September 2013.[26]


Susie Obrien in the Herald Sun in Melbourne criticised the ad for trivialising serious injuries and being about advertisers' ego rather than effective safety messages.[27]

Simon Crerar of the Herald Sun wrote that the song's "catchy chorus is the most arresting hook since PSY's Gangnam Style".[8] Alice Clarke writing in the Herald Sun described the video as "adorably morbid" and wrote that Victoria's public transport "broke its long running streak of terrible ads".[28]

Daisy Dumas of the Sydney Morning Herald described it as "darkly cute - and irksomely catchy" and the chorus as "instant earworm material".[29]

Michelle Starr of CNET described the campaign as "The Darwin Awards meets The Gashlycrumb Tinies" and the song as "a cutesy indie-pop hit in the style of Feist".[30]

Logan Booker of Gizmodo described it as "taking a page out of the Happy Tree Friends book and mixing cute with horrifying".[31]

Karen Stocks of YouTube Australia said the video was unusual due to the high number of views from mobile devices.[32] Stocks attributed the success to "A snappy headline. A catchy tune that gets stuck in your head. And a message that is easy to understand and perfectly targeted."[32]

The Sunshine Coast Daily described it as "the Gangnam Style of train safety campaigns".[33]

Arlene Paredes of the International Business Times said the video was "brilliant in getting viewers' attention" and "arguably one of the cutest PSAs ever made".[34]

Censorship in Russia[edit]

In February 2013, Artemy Lebedev's blog was censored by Roskomnadzor, the Russian government agency in charge of Internet censorship, for including the video.[35] Later that day, the YouTube video was also censored, with the "This content is not available in your country due to a legal complaint from the government" message. The official takedown notice sent to Livejournal.com was quoted, in part, by Lebedev in his blog.

The song's lyrics contains a description of different ways of committing suicide, such as: using drugs beyond their expiration date, standing on an edge of a platform, running across the rails, eating superglue and other. The animated personages demonstrate dangerous ways of suicide in attractive for children and teenagers comic format. The lines such as "hide in a dryer" and "what's this red button do?" contain an incitement to commit those acts.

Despite this fact the video was included into ABC Show and was shown in more than 50 cities of Russia.


The campaign won seven Webby Awards in 2013 including the Best Animation Film & Video and Best Public Service & Activism (Social Content & Marketing).[36]

It won three Siren Awards, run by Commercial Radio Australia, including the Gold Siren for best advertisement of the year and Silver Sirens for the best song and best campaign.[37][38]

The public service announcement was awarded the Grand Trophy in the 2013 New York Festivals International Advertising Awards.[39]

In June 2013, the campaign won the Integrated Grand Prix at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity.[40]


The success of the campaign has caused "Dumb ways to ..." to become popular as a phrasal template or Snowclone.[41][42][43]


  1. ^ http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=IJNR2EpS0jw
  2. ^ a b c d "Metro's tongue-in-cheek transport safety animated video goes viral on social media". The Age. 19 November 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "McCann's dumb ways to die". Australian Creative. 19 November 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c "Aussie viral video, 'Dumb Ways to Die', lives on". The Age. 29 November 2012. 
  5. ^ Stephen Cauchi (14 February 2013). "No dumb luck: Metro claims safety success". The Age. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  6. ^ Dumb Ways To Die – A Strange Sense of Success Retrieved 16 July 2013
  7. ^ Karalee Evans (11 February 2013). "Dumb Ways To Die and social media bullshit". Mumbrella. Retrieved 9 November 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Cute Melbourne safety video Dumb Ways to Die becomes internet smash". Herald Sun. 19 November 2012. 
  9. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die YouTube video". Retrieved 06/01/2014. 
  10. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die spawns karaoke spin off". Mumbrella. 27 November 2012. 
  11. ^ http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=a760h7ljuUM
  12. ^ http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=b1B8kizCjQA
  13. ^ http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3_Mx8vye6W8
  14. ^ a b "'Dumb ways to die' goes viral". 3AW. 19 November 2012. 
  15. ^ "McCann creates Australia's biggest ever viral hit". B&T Marketing & Media. 10 November 2012. 
  16. ^ "Hong Kong iTunes Top 20 Songs". 21 November 2012. 
  17. ^ "Singapore iTunes Top 20 Songs". 21 November 2012. 
  18. ^ "Taiwan iTunes Top 20 Songs". 21 November 2012. 
  19. ^ "Vietnam iTunes Top 20 Songs". 21 November 2012. 
  20. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die". Apple App Store. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  21. ^ "Dodge Piranhas and Swat Wasps in new 'Dumb Ways to Die' Game". Creativity Online. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  22. ^ Frost, Julian. "Dumb Ways to Die Game". julianfrost.co.nz. Julian Frost. Retrieved 8 October 2013. 
  23. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die: You have to Keep Them Alive, or Die Hilariously". App Chronicles. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  24. ^ Nudd, Tim. "Dumb Ways to Die Is Now a Video Game for the iPhone and iPad McCann Australia extends beloved train-safety ad". AdWeek. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  25. ^ "Dumb Ways To Die tops charts with new iPhone + iPad app game via McCann + Barrel Of Donkeys". Campaign Brief. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  26. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die". Google Play Store. Retrieved 18 September 2013. 
  27. ^ http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/ego-trip-a-dumb-way-to-tackle-rail-safety/story-fn56aaiq-1226523387207?from=herald+sun_rss
  28. ^ "How we've cornered the market in terrible advertising". Herald Sun. 26 November 2012. 
  29. ^ "Being dumb is almost cool with surprise advertising hit". Sydney Morning Herald. 19 November 2012. 
  30. ^ "Metro Trains PSA details dumb ways to die". CNET. 19 November 2012. 
  31. ^ "Adorable, Yet Horrifying Metro Trains Safety Video Quietly Becomes A YouTube Sensation". Gizmodo. 19 November 2012. 
  32. ^ a b "Mobile devices help ‘Dumb ways to die’ become the fastest spreading Australian viral brand video of all time". mUmBRELLA. 19 November 2012. 
  33. ^ "Dumb ways to die video the Gangam Style of train safety". Sunshine Coast Daily. 20 November 2012. 
  34. ^ "Viral Video with 8M Views: "Dumb Ways to Die" Melbourne Metro Ad - Cute, Twisted, Brilliant". International Business Times. 5 January 2013. 
  35. ^ "Post on your blog for clip on blocked Lebedeva stupid ways to commit suicide". Lenta.ru. 5 February 2013. 
  36. ^ "Melbourne rail safety message wins Webby". The Age. 1 May 2013. 
  37. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die dominates Sirens". B&T. 10 May 2013. 
  38. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die campaign dominates best radio ads of the year". Commercial Radio Australia. 
  39. ^ "Dumb Ways does it again". australiancreative.com.au. 4 May 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013. 
  40. ^ Mark Sweney (2013). "Cannes Lions: Dumb Ways to Die scoops top award". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  41. ^ Dumb Ways to Fly game
  42. ^ Dumb Ways to Get a Sunburn safety message
  43. ^ Dumb Ways To Plan protest tweets

External links[edit]