Public safety announcements (PSA) tend to be serious, boring, and forgettable. Melbourne Metro Trains set out to make a safety commercial that would be interesting and, more importantly, memorable. And so, “Dumb Ways to Die” was born.
The funny 3-minute animated clip features a series of cute characters who meet their death in unusual and highly gruesome ways. The Melbourne Metro Trains system itself wasn’t even mentioned until the last 30 seconds. To date, the video has been viewed over 38 million views and has inspired over 80 covers and 90 parodies (which led to another 3.2 million views in earned media).
The strange combination of dark humor and catchy music appeals to many viewers, but especially younger demographics. Instead of trying to scare people, the commercial draws viewers in and makes them pay attention. Plus, the PSA isn’t preachy or judgemental. In other words, “Dumb Ways to Die” doesn’t feel like a typical safety message.
Moreover, since the commercial doesn’t mention the Melbourne Metro Trains system until the end of the video, user from around the world can watch the clip without being interested in the actual service. By not being specific to any one location, the message of the video could spread much further than southern Australia.
After the video became viral, the ad agency that created it posted all the cute creatures to Tumblr, furthering the lifespan of the commercial. Thousands of TV stations and websites featured the video as a great example of how to make an effective PSA.