Metro Trains ‘Dumb ways to die’ video goes viral

A safety video for Melbourne’s Metro Trains has gone viral.

The three-minute musical cartoon, which is designed to curb preventable train-related deaths, has amassed 2.3m views on YouTube in 48 hours – with no media spend. (9.30am November 19 update: 4.7m views now)

Since it launched at the end of last week, ‘Dumb ways to die’ has been ‘liked’ on YouTube 42,000 times – more than double that of another popular Australian ad to go viral, ‘Beer chase’ for Carlton Draught.

The song, sung by an unknown Melbourne artist, is currently ranked fifth in the singer/songwriter category of iTunes.

The video was on the front page of Reddit for six hours, and “has gone nuts on Tumblr”, according to the man who wrote the ad, McCann ECD John Mescall.

He told Mumbrella on Sunday: “Of course, we wanted it to go viral, but it’s rare that all the elements you need fit into place. Just one thing could kill it.”

“If it wasn’t catchy enough, or the safety message had come at the beginning and not the end, it wouldn’t have worked,” he said.

“People don’t want to share advertising. They want to share stories and content. Dumb ways to die is very likeable. And if you really like something, you want to share it.”

Media spend on the campaign kicks off next week.

At the time of posting, Dumb Ways To Die had just moved to number one on the Viral Video Chart, ahead of Rihanna.

viral video chart dumb ways to die


  1. Martin
    18 Nov 12
    11:07 am

  2. My kids are loving this, have been playing and singing it in the car all weekend here in Auckland.

  3. CJ
    18 Nov 12
    11:38 am

  4. The tune is awesome. But I would be pretty offended if I had lost one of my loved ones who has fallen onto the tracks… not only are they now a jelly bean but they are also “dumb”. Maybe a bit insensitive?

  5. Aaron
    18 Nov 12
    1:56 pm

  6. I dont know if they have any proper video analytics around this, but i’d be interested to see how many of the 2.3 million video viewers actually viewed it until the end. Considering the key message is in the last 10-15 seconds of the video, it could seriously dilute the amount of people actually seeing the message…..

    If it was me, i would’ve spread the train-related ‘ways to die’ throughout the video rather than at the end. Still well done though….. Kudos to all involved….

  7. wow
    18 Nov 12
    2:39 pm

  8. Just saw on viral video chart that it’s currently the most shared video in the world right now. Ahead of Rihanna’s new single.
    Not bad for a rail safety message.

  9. Merus
    19 Nov 12
    12:37 am

  10. I think people are probably watching the video all the way to the end, judging purely from it being shared widely. If it was disengaging people halfway through, people wouldn’t spread it.

  11. C Croom
    19 Nov 12
    3:50 am

  12. Here in the US, it’s all over the place and everyone is watching to the end. Simple, clever, catchy tune and funny animation. Can be easily broken into shorter spots. Should be a win-win for Metro trains and the agency.

  13. Matt
    19 Nov 12
    10:04 am

  14. keith
    19 Nov 12
    10:15 am

  15. I’m curious about the international tone of the item from Grizzly Bear to Rattlesnakes and even the voiceover and vocal style. Still great idea and cool execution. It will be interesting to see how this viral launch plays into the broader local campaign.

  16. Christiaan
    19 Nov 12
    10:31 am

  17. AWESOME! What a great piece of entertainment… Congratulations to everyone involved… Amazing use of musical comedy, and awesome way to get the important message across without needing it to take up too much screen time, or distracting from the comedy. Yeeeeeeeeow!… Stoked for all who had a part in it.

  18. nell_schofield
    19 Nov 12
    10:31 am

  19. let’s not get confused here.

    # of views/virality simply means great reach and presumably engagement because the viewer activated the ad, but not great effectiveness because that depends also on exactly what’s being viewed.

    it’s brilliant and I love it as entertainment but not sure of its effectiveness as advertising because the message is only at the very end. Hopefully people will watch the whole thing but was it a necessary risk to take? why not sprinkle the train references throughout the full 3 minutes?

    the trend to only message and brand in the last 10 seconds of ads is understandable from agencies who fear disconnection if these are introduced too early – but there’s also such a thing as introducing it too late

    ..and C Croom, it’s kind of you to speak on behalf of the 280 million people in the US. Did you sit beside them as they pressed play? something tells me you work for the agency. Maybe it was the patently absurd claim and the use of ‘win win’

  20. Darwinian
    19 Nov 12
    10:46 am

  21. Perhaps the Darwin Awards can adopt this as their new jingle? For the record, its catchy!

  22. Martin
    19 Nov 12
    10:55 am

  23. Even if people don’t get the message by viewing it all the way through they will get the message from the media coverage it has created from getting so many views. I had to skip back to get the 3 train references at the end (brain wandered just at the crucial time) but hey I skipped back so I got it… and they got me. We can all be critics, we could have said that the 3 train messages could have been worked in to the chorus to create repetition, but then it might not have been so catchy. Great work on this. A shining star.

  24. James P
    19 Nov 12
    10:59 am

  25. It’s lovely and creative and catchy, but as someone who lost a close family friend to a train line suicide 5 years ago, I’m not sure what this is actually trying to achieve. From what I learned afterwards, the vast majority of train-related incidents are intentional, not ‘accidents’. And even when the cause is ambiguous, authorities openly admit many are likely to have been suicides. Given this, who is the target audience? Dumb way to die? Geez, if anything it provides ideas for vulnerable people on ways to kill themselves, doesn’t it?

  26. derrick
    19 Nov 12
    11:02 am

  27. people were singing this in the pub on sat night!

  28. Ben Coverdale
    19 Nov 12
    11:07 am

  29. Aaron and Nell, the ad is aimed at people in Melbourne and you’re debating how many people watched it in the U.S.? Who cares? The fact is it’s a cool piece of work. One of the rare ones that has enough charm to break all the rules. That’s it. Job done. And well done. I wish I’d made it up.

  30. Waaah
    19 Nov 12
    11:08 am

  31. There’s always a ‘nell_schofield’ in the comments …

  32. Larry
    19 Nov 12
    11:09 am

  33. C’mon C Croom, you can do better than that…
    “everyone is watching to the end.” What an intelligent statement that is….

  34. Clive burcham
    19 Nov 12
    11:20 am

  35. well done!

  36. Bob
    19 Nov 12
    11:21 am

  37. Anyone who comments negatively on this campaign is a bum.

  38. Keaton
    19 Nov 12
    11:27 am

  39. The message is great but i think the success of this is the backend spreading through popular social news websites like buzzfeed or gizmodo or any of the many other influential distributors. If any of you want to give virility a little nudge it’s best to contact all of these and boost the awareness as he who controls the media controls the world.

  40. Blaze
    19 Nov 12
    11:48 am

  41. I feel like I have viewed it 4.7M times already & cannot get it out of my head. Brilliant work!!!

  42. nell_schofield
    19 Nov 12
    11:57 am

  43. There’s only one thing wrong with your theory Martin – 99.99% of Metro rail commuters don’t read ad/mkting trade websites or other trade media. Any piece of communication needs to stand on its own two feet to claim effectiveness. The fact that you completely missed the message and had to rewatch it proves my earlier point. That a trade insider has to rewatch the video to get the message indicates that a campaign may not be an effective mass communication, no matter how cute, entertaining, catchy and well-produced it may be.
    Branded content is a delightfully shiny new thing for many people, but dont let it’s novelty distract you from the task at hand.
    i despair at how often this seems to happen in advertising/comms.

  44. Jason Burrows
    19 Nov 12
    12:21 pm

  45. Brilliant work !

  46. FrancesMF
    19 Nov 12
    12:43 pm

  47. Excellent! May I suggest as others have, the catchy tune, the clever animation but also good storytelling (beginning middle and end) and references to a safe time (childlike repetition) and importantly rhyme all go to the tremendous relate-ability of this piece. Very well done to the writers of both the ad and the song and the team who put it all together.

  48. Ella
    19 Nov 12
    1:21 pm

  49. Wow! Great fun AND catchy!
    Wanted to switch off after 2 minutes…but wanted to watch how it ended…figured I’d made it that I kept viewing. Sweet. Humming the tune now!

  50. Martin
    19 Nov 12
    2:05 pm

  51. Good point Nell on the content but SMH and Herald Sun would have a good % of commuters. It’s a pandemic! :0)

  52. Jorge
    19 Nov 12
    2:08 pm

  53. Dear mumbrella your video links are not mobile friendly. Please fix asap. Thanking you kindly. J

  54. Jamie Poole
    19 Nov 12
    2:10 pm

  55. Congratulations to the team behind the campaign, but I can only echo what other commentators have said, will it be effective?

    What has driven me to comment is that I have recently spoken to my younger cousin, who has seen the YouTube video – but has no idea that the song was produced for Metro or even was intended as a train safety message (I’m not even sure if he made it to the end).

    For the record, we are in Queensland.

    So you have Queenslanders/Australians/Americans watching this video, with from what I can only judge by the comments, some are – while some aren’t – understanding the train safety message behind it.

    How does this help Melbourne Metro improve their safety figures? (assuming thats the objective)

    While view counts are impressive and there is little doubt this video has gone viral, are the right people watching it?

    If you click on the Statistics button underneath the video on YouTube, you will see that the “Top Demographics” of this video are: Male, 25-34 years – Male, 35-44 years – Male, 45-54 years. Is this truly who they want or need watching the video the most?

    Again, it is a nice piece of creative work – but it is unclear whether it is a great piece of advertising.

  56. here's hoping
    19 Nov 12
    2:14 pm

  57. I love the spot. I love the track. But that doesn’t make it effective, yet. So fingers crossed it’s as effective as it is popular. In the meantime, congrats all round.

  58. JAke
    19 Nov 12
    3:08 pm

  59. @Aaron and others talking about the effectiveness and spreading the train message, i don’t think this could be better constructed.

    This video was “quietly released” on Youtube and grown very quickly. I think a large part of that is people don’t feel like a message is being rammed down their throat.

    My first watch of this i thought it was just an amusing video, until i noticed the 3 train messages crammed together, complemented by the unobtrusive Metro reference at the end. I find the subtleties exceptionally elegant.

    Yes the direct message will be lost on a lot of people, but subconsciously it associates unnecessary dangerous behaviors with being dumb. The message should get to enough people to turn to an idiot on the tracks and call him/her dumb.

    Finally, I like the fact it is encouraging accountability for ones own behavior. You shouldn’t have to rely on signage to say “dont cross the tracks”, its just DUMB!

  60. @jamie and nell
    19 Nov 12
    3:21 pm

  61. perhaps people need to remember that this video is just one part of an integrated campaign, most of which hasn’t been seen yet. the paid media component hasn’t even started.

    why don’t you wait until the campaign has actually run in it’s entirety, and the results have been measured, before complaining that it doesn’t work?

  62. Jamie Poole
    19 Nov 12
    3:59 pm

  63. Neither I have, nor has Nell appeared to, complained that this message doesn’t work. We have both said it is entertaining, well-made, and well deserved of credit and for going viral.

    Criticism is not complaining.

    We are yet to know if this is effective advertising, hence I said “unclear”. I have little doubt Victorians/Melbournites will probably be seeing 15 or 30 second spots in the near future, apart of a larger campaign that will probably include print.

    And this video might bring some welcome PR in Melbourne (and Nationally, which will feed back to Melbourne), but you need to remember this video is commissioned by the Melbourne Metro for their purposes, and while no doubt a PSA that goes viral helps everybody – in terms of advertising – communication with objectives – one cannot say its a success merely because of a viewcount buffed by international audiences as well as Australians nowhere near Victoria (who may or may not understand the message at all).

    Waiting until the results have been measured was my exact point. Until then, questioning whether it does work is healthy academic and industry discussion.

  64. DD
    19 Nov 12
    4:04 pm

  65. In the TAC ads, the key line isn’t generally until the end either, and, as shown on Mumbrella recently, they have been reasonably effective over their time.

  66. Punter
    19 Nov 12
    4:24 pm

  67. lovely piece of work….don’t think it’d really change my behaviour around trains, but if I did get chopped in half trying to cross a track I’d like to think I’d be singing the song as I wheeled into the ambulance

  68. DD response
    19 Nov 12
    6:30 pm

  69. I think the point some have made about the ‘line’ being at the end is simply an observation about having to wait for nearly 3 mins to get the Metro message.

    However, I’m sure when the 30’s run the ‘line’ being at the end will feel just right.
    Time will tell how successful it is in reducing train related deaths and accidents.
    In the meantime we should all just sit back, sing along and enjoy.

  70. David
    19 Nov 12
    8:59 pm

  71. Legend! Top job to all involved.

  72. Sue
    21 Nov 12
    6:42 pm

  73. Get real – if this gets kids (and clearly adult males OMG are we suprised?) thinking that maybe something could be a dumb thing to do I don’t care where in the world its being viewed – its’ a goddam success and well done to the team and the client for going for it.

  74. Jennifer Johnson
    25 Nov 12
    9:29 am

  75. Brilliant and I love it! Well done McCann’s Team. I can undwestand the critiques – well there are always those – but this is a good stand alone piece of the bigger picture yet to be launched!! It’s catchy, colourful,attractive to all age groups I’m sure and memorable – I’m humming it as I write! I’m sure the message will be heard and received and ahve impact!! Like it, sing it and keep sharings it! It’s happily now floating around England!!

  76. Jennifer Johnson
    25 Nov 12
    9:33 am

  77. Sorry a few typo errors in there !! Like undwestand = understand; ahve = have