Metro Trains Melbourne: Dumb Ways To Die


Campaign: Dumb Ways to Die
Client: Metro Trains Melbourne
Agency: McCann

Every year there are needless deaths or accidents around trains in Melbourne, Australia. And while rail accidents are tragic, they are in most cases completely avoidable. This is particularly true for young adults.
Metro Trains Melbourne challenged McCann Melbourne with three primary objectives for a new marketing campaign:

  1. Reduce train-related accidents in key accident areas by 10% over 12 months
  2. Generate a stated commitment to be safe around trains (40,000 pledges)
  3. Generate campaign awareness of 25% among the core target audience of young adults


Two insights propelled McCann’s solution for the campaign: that young people hate being told what to do; and that if you get hit by a train, you’ve probably done something pretty dumb.

So the campaign strategy focussed on turning a message about rail safety that nobody wants to listen to into a piece of entertainment people actively seek out and share, that tells the truth about rail accidents.

McCann created ‘Dumb Ways to Die’, a branded content marketing campaign consisting of a three-minute song and video featuring 21 cartoon characters dying in really “dumb ways – three of them in train-related accidents.

McCann launched the song in the usual way on iTunes, YouTube, radio and more. The agency used both traditional media (radio, TV, cinema, posters, press) and social media (Soundcloud, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook) to drive traffic to the music video on YouTube.

To extend the reach of the campaign through social media and PR, they also created dedicated forms of shareable content across multiple channels, including a karaoke version of the song, limited-edition posters of the characters, the ‘Little Book of Dumb Ways to Die’ for schools and the Dumb Ways to Die smartphone game app.



  • 74 million+ video views on YouTube
  • Worldwide #1 app downloaded over 35 million times
  • Song charted on iTunes in 28 countries; sold over 100,000 copies
  • 1 million+ pledges to be safe around trains on the campaign website
  • AU$60 million of earned media impressions


  • Most awarded campaign at the Webby Awards 2013
  • Most awarded campaign ever in D&AD history
  • Most awarded agency in the history of the Spikes Asia Festival of Creativity
  • Most awarded agency in the history of the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity
  • London International Awards Agency of the Year 2013
  • 3rd ranked global agency at One Show 2013
  • Selected among TED’s top 10 Ads Worth Spreading 2013. (The only Australian advertisement ever to have been so recognised.)
  • Clio Awards 2013 top ranked Australian Agency
  • Second ranked Australian agency at Adfest 2013

We’ve got a campaign that’s relied on content and with the app we’re starting the move to merchandising. I think the way forward … is to steer away from the advertising model and create content and create merchandising … We need to keep creating shareable pieces that people can seek out and [that] have a worth beyond just the marketing message.

John Mescall, Executive Creative Director, McCann Melbourne (AdAge 24/6/2103)


The ‘Dumb Ways To Die’ campaign became a global phenomenon and quickly demonstrated a real impact on social behaviour. Far exceeding its objectives, it’s one of Australia’s most successful public service campaigns.

As well as the results listed previously, there were hundreds of cover versions and parodies viewed more than 20 million times themselves, campaign awareness among the core target audience of 46% after only one month, and most importantly a 10% reduction in near misses and accidents at level crossings and station platforms over 12 months.

Images and data © Metro Trains Melbourne, Dumb Ways To Die™. All Rights Reserved.