Dumb Ways to Die

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Dumb Ways to Die
Dumb Ways to Die.png
A screenshot from the animated video during the song's final chorus presenting the characters and their deaths
AgencyMcCann Melbourne
ClientMetro Trains Melbourne
Release date(s)2012

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

Characters[edit]

In order of appearance:

  • Numpty: He dies by setting his hair on fire.
  • Hapless: He pokes a stick at a grizzly bear, which then becomes angry and eats his head off.
  • Pillock: He dies by consuming expired medicine.
  • Dippy: He uses his private parts as bait for a piranha that later bites him, resulting in his death.
  • Dummkopf: He tries to get out some toast with a fork from a toaster while it is plugged in, and gets electrocuted.
  • Dimwit: He tries to do his own electrical work in his house, but ends up burning it down.
  • Stupe: He tries to teach himself how to fly, but crash lands and decapitates himself.
  • Lax: He eats a two-week old unrefrigerated (most likely mouldy) pie, pukes on the screen, and dies.
  • Clod: He is the only character in the video not to die. Instead, he kills an unseen character, who opens the door for him to come in.
  • Doomed: He scratches a drug dealer's new ride, who then gets angry and puts him in a trash bag. Later, he is beaten with a baseball bat to death.
  • Numskull: She takes her helmet off in outer space and her head explodes.
  • Bungle: He chooses a clothes dryer as a hiding place. But unfortunately, someone switches on the dryer.
  • Mishap: He keeps a rattlesnake as a pet, which bites his eye after he tries to give it a hot dog.
  • Dunce: He sells both of his kidneys on the internet, which leads to his eventual off-screen death.
  • Calamity: She eats a tube of superglue and dies.
  • Ninny: He gets curious about a red button, but upon pressing it an explosion occurs on the spot.
  • Botch: He dresses as a moose during hunting season, and is therefore shot by hunters.
  • Doofus: He tosses a wasp nest into the air for no good reason, after which, the wasps sting him to death.
  • Stumble: He stands at the edge of a railway platform, and accidentally falls on the track right before a train goes past.
  • Bonehead: He wants to quickly pass the level crossing, and tries to impatiently drive around the boom barriers, but a train arrives before he can get to the other side, smashing into his car, and killing him.
  • Putz: After his balloon floats away from his hand, Putz tries to cross the railway tracks to reach it, but a train hits him.

Campaign[edit]

The campaign was devised by advertising agency McCann Melbourne. It appeared in newspapers, local radio and 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]

Animated video[edit]

The video was art directed by Patrick 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 featured "Numpty, Hapless, Pillock, Dippy, Dummkopf, Dimwit, Stupe, Lax, Clod, Doomed, Numskull, Bungle, Mishap, Dunce, Calamity, Ninny, Botch, Doofus, Stumble, Bonehead and Putz".

Song[edit]

"Dumb Ways to Die"
Tangerine Kitty - Dumb Ways to Die (Official Single Cover).jpg
Song by Tangerine Kitty
Released1 November 2012 (2012-11-01)
GenrePop
Length3:00
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Ollie McGill
  • John Mescall
  • Patrick Baron

The song "Dumb Ways to Die" from the video was written by John Mescall and co created with Patrick Baron, music by Ollie McGill from The Cat Empire, who also produced it.[6] It was performed by Emily Lubitz, the lead vocalist of Tinpan Orange, with McGill providing backing vocals.[2] The band on the recording consists of Gavin Pearce on Bass, Danny Faruggia on drums and Brett Wood on guitar.[7] It was released on iTunes, attributed to the artist "Tangerine Kitty" (a reference to Tinpan Orange and The Cat Empire).[2][8] The song, with a tempo of 128 beats per minute, is written in C major and a time signature of 4/4.[9]

Charts
Chart (2012–13) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[10] 9
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[11] 94
UK Indie (OCC)[12] 38

Video game[edit]

Dumb Ways to Die
Developer(s)Julian Frost
Samuel Baird
Publisher(s)Metro Trains Melbourne
PopReach
Producer(s)Ollie McGill Edit this on Wikidata
EngineUnity
Platform(s)iOS, Android
ReleaseiOS
  • WW: 6 May 2013
Android
  • WW: 17 September 2013
Genre(s)Action game, Puzzle game
Mode(s)Single-player

In May 2013, Metro released a "Dumb Ways to Die" game as an app for iOS devices.[13][14] The game, developed by Julian Frost, Patrick Baron and Samuel Baird,[15] invites players to avoid the dangerous activities engaged in by the various characters featured throughout the campaign.[16] Within the app, players can also pledge to "not do dumb stuff around trains."[17][18] The activities include things like getting toast out with a fork and poking a stick at a grizzly bear. An Android version was released in September 2013.[19]

The game is similar to games in the WarioWare series. The game presents minigames based on the animated music video in rapid succession and becomes faster and more difficult the longer the game is played.[20]

A sequel titled "Dumb Ways to Die 2: The Games" was released on 14 November 2014. In the sequel, there are a lot more varieties of challenges in each particular building, and each building has a particular theme. Before a train arrives at a building, the player plays a challenge to counter something related to trains. If successful, bonus points can be earned at the end of the game. There are 8 challenges each in every building. Like the original game, the game's characters do plenty of dangerous and unsafe activities. Lives can be lost by "dying" in one of the activities. The player has three chances to prevent the characters from dying.[21]

The game is recently also available as a web and mobile-web version by MarketJS, license holder of the HTML5 web IP.

A second sequel titled "Dumb Ways to Die 3: World Tour" was released on 21 December 2017. Unlike the previous games which both involved the player playing minigames and trying to prevent the characters from dying, here the player collects coins from houses that are fixed up from being initially broken. The houses are fixed by the player playing a new minigame for each area containing those houses.[22]

A spinoff was also released, titled "Dumb Ways to Draw" on 5 May 2019. In the game, the player has to draw lines with in-game pens to guide the characters to their goals. But they also have to prevent the characters' deaths by dangers. It also had a colouring section to colour and share drawings as well as a "trace the picture" section, in which the player is required to hold the screen till a line of sufficient length is drawn to trace the given diagram.[23]

Another spinoff, titled "Dumb Ways to Dash" was released on 13 December 2019. The player has to guide her/his character in a 3D race against other characters to the finish line while avoiding the obstacles.[24] A third spinoff, titled "Dumb Ways to Die: Superheroes" was released on 25 June 2020. It has similar gameplay to the previous spinoff.[25]

YouTube channel[edit]

The Metro Trains has also published a number of other videos on its YouTube channel, "DumbWays2Die", including the trailers of the second game, a video centered on the MIFF, a series of Christmas-themed short videos, Halloween-themed videos, and some other videos centered on Train Safety.[26]

Reception[edit]

Susie O'Brien 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 was the most arresting hook since PSY's Gangnam Style."[7] 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]

Effectiveness and unwanted repercussions[edit]

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.[35] 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".[36]

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.[37] 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 the ABC Show and was shown in more than 50 cities of Russia.

Awards[edit]

The campaign won seven Webby Awards in 2013 including the Best Animation Film & Video and Best Public Service & Activism (Social Content & Marketing).[38]

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.[39][40]

The public service announcement was awarded the Grand Trophy in the 2013 New York Festivals International Advertising Awards.[41]

In June 2013, the campaign clip won the Integrated Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity,[42] and overall, won five Grand Prix awards, 18 Gold Lions, three Silver Lions, and two Bronze Lions, which was the most for the campaign in the festival's history.[43]

Legacy[edit]

Parodies[edit]

Within two weeks, the video had spawned over 85 parodies.[44] Some renditions and parodies have been featured in national and international media:

Life Insurance Partnership[edit]

Due to their success, the Dumb Ways to Die characters have been featured in a promotional campaign for Empire Life Insurance, with their key message being, "the dumbest way to die is without life insurance."[63][64] However, the campaign was met with mixed reviews, with some advertising critics accusing Metro of "selling out" on a successful campaign.[65]

Spin-offs[edit]

On 17 October 2014, the Dumb Ways to Die website was revamped to hint at a new installment of the campaign. Slated for release in November 2014, the games take on a more sporting, athletic, and fitness theme, and is labelled "Dumb Ways to Die 2: The Games".[66]

Other[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ DumbWays2Die (14 November 2012). Dumb Ways to Die (YouTube). - official video link
  2. ^ a b c "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. Archived from the original on 19 November 2012.
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External links[edit]