Melbourne’s Metro Trains launches ‘dumb ways to die’ campaign to curb preventable train-related deaths

McCann Melbourne has launched a campaign for Metro Trains to curb the number of train-related deaths in Victoria.

A three-minute animated music video, written by McCann ECD John Mescall, is the centre piece of the campaign. The video highlights the many dumb ways there are to die, with being hit by a train – a very preventable death – among them.

Mescall said: “We’ve got people eating superglue, sticking forks in toasters and selling both their kidneys. But truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and we still couldn’t come up with dumber ways to die than driving around boomgates and all the other things people do to put themselves in harm’s way around trains. 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.”

The song is downloadable to iTunes via It was sung by a Melbourne artist who wants to remain anonymous, but was produced the music by Ollie McGill of Cat Empire.

The campaign will also appear in press, through a Nova radio promotion, on Tumblr, through small and large space outdoor and throughout the Metro Trains network, with the lyrics to the song on the art work.

Chloe Alsop, marketing manager of Metro Trains, said: “The safety of our customers is our single most important consideration. So it’s terribly sad to see so many preventable accidents or near misses on our train system.”

“This campaign is designed to draw people to the safety message, rather than frighten them away. Especially in our younger segments. We want to create a lasting understanding that you shouldn’t take risks around trains, that the prospect of death or serious injury is ever-present and that we as a community need to be aware of what constitutes both safe and dumb behaviour.”


Executive Creative Director: John Mescall
Creative Team: John Mescall, Pat Baron
Animation: Julian Frost
Digital Team: Huey Groves, Christian Stocker

Group Account Director: Adrian Mills
Account Director: Alec Hussain
Senior Account Manager: Tamara Broman
Senior Producer: Mark Bradley
Producer: Cinnamon Darvall
Composer and producer: Oliver McGill

Metro Trains
General Manager, Corporate Relations: Leah Waymark
Marketing Manager: Chloe Alsop


  1. Nice song but...
    16 Nov 12
    12:02 pm

  2. Taking 2:21 to get to the train safety part is far too long IMHO. I would have turned off much earlier if I didn’t know what it was for/within this article.

  3. Anonymous
    16 Nov 12
    1:39 pm

  4. Absolutely brilliant. Love it!

  5. Mr T
    16 Nov 12
    2:11 pm

  6. Amazing. Love it too.

    Taking 2 minutes to get to the point IS THE POINT!

    Seeing it roll out into mX will be good.

  7. crizza
    16 Nov 12
    2:11 pm

  8. Brilliant song and animation. Will probably be a hit in its own right. Have to agree that the message needs to come sooner, but I’m sure they’ll do shorter versions, too.

  9. Other Dumb Ways...
    16 Nov 12
    2:19 pm

  10. Other dumb ways to die…

    – suffocated on an over crowded training
    – dying of old age waiting for a cancelled train to come
    – being mugged on a poorly lit, unmanned station…

    Crying out for a send up!

  11. SS
    16 Nov 12
    2:23 pm

  12. Go Millsy. Showing the rest of us suits how to do it!

  13. jamie
    16 Nov 12
    2:44 pm

  14. Made my day ; )

  15. John Culvenor
    16 Nov 12
    2:49 pm

  16. This is slightly amusing but of little use in advancing safety. Basically this is a continuation of victim blaming that is endemic in public conversations on safety. Lack of thought design is actually what causes danger. Platforms for instance are protected only a line. Granted, driving around a boom gate – if it is working – is not a particularly clever idea. However, in the main when stories of driving around boom gates are publicized it is usually in the context of a gate that is down permanently, thus not working. Ordinarily a lowered gate provides information of a pending train arrival, hence the prudence of waiting. However when it is no longer working it is providing no information. The public driving around it is simply making their own observation and choice – exactly the same as the government which criticises these actions – expect people to do at level crossings without gates. There is nothing more dangerous about either action. Trains as such are primarily dangerous in the urban environment because of their lack of braking. Buses would be a better option. The rail reserves could be used as dedicated bus and bicycle lanes. The rail reserves are empty most of the time. The reason is that trains, with braking incompatible with other transport, need to be separated. They cannot stop with short sight distances. There would be few examples of emergency braking in the urban environment actually preventing a collision. Better safety would be delivered if minds were put to work on creative + logical design solutions rather than amusing but fundamentally useless advertising.

  17. Encyclic!
    16 Nov 12
    2:59 pm

  18. @ John – Re “Trains as such are primarily dangerous in the urban environment because of their lack of braking.”

    Don’t you guys have fences south of the border? It’s a goddamn 700 ton wheeled corridor, moving at a fair clip, what precisely do you think brakes would do in an emergency situation?

  19. Hey soapbox dude
    16 Nov 12
    3:13 pm

  20. Hey John Culvenor, the points you raise are BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRING.

    Nice ad though metro.

  21. Larry
    16 Nov 12
    3:20 pm

  22. Catchy tune but pretty bloody insensitive to those people who have lost their lives due to train accidents, some of them no doubt the fault of the rail system.

  23. Sandra Kingston
    16 Nov 12
    3:29 pm

  24. Frankly I’d have turned off – took too long to get to the point. The best education piece I have seen is the one by metro’s own drivers to passengers at merinda park station who thought they might race across the tracks in front of the oncoming commuter train.
    He applied the emergency brakes. People on the platform saw and heard how long it took him to stop, he then delivered a short, but resonant announcement on what he had just done and why.
    The carriages went silent, and passengers were on the platform, on time the next day. More please.

  25. John Culvenor
    16 Nov 12
    3:37 pm

  26. Hello Encyclic! You’ve struck the key problem. The steel wheel on steel rail is the fundamental problem. Your suggestion of fencing thus follows. However it is never complete including platforms, road crossings, and other incursions. Anything interacting with the train unexpectedly leaves the driver with little choice but to run it over because in the urban environment the sight distances are short. The poor braking means that as far as possible the train system is isolated (or meant to be). Unfortunately this then means rail reserves are basically underused. This is not an issue in a rural environment but in an urban setting it does not make sense. Closer travelling tyred traffic on these routes would be safer and more productive.

  27. Tom O
    16 Nov 12
    3:48 pm

  28. Like it! Has enough charm to keep you watching all the way through to the pointy end. Better than other boring safety messages.

  29. James H
    16 Nov 12
    4:11 pm

  30. For the total cost of this, you could have:

    – built gates at the station where most deaths happen
    – promote the cause, there, on platform, where it all happens, the target market.
    – And had some change for the fat cats.

    Nice work McCann on pulling the wool.

  31. Jeremy
    16 Nov 12
    4:22 pm

  32. James – perhaps this is one communication piece as part of a bigger strategy which includes on-site safety apparatus?

  33. oil
    16 Nov 12
    4:41 pm

  34. pretty sure thats sally seltmann singing, sure sounds like her anyway.

  35. Wolfcat
    16 Nov 12
    4:47 pm

  36. a better version would be “dumb ways to advertise” and the melody doesn’t need to be changed at all.

  37. Mark W
    16 Nov 12
    4:59 pm

  38. WOW, Frank and James… great ill informed comments… buses instead of trains, such a funny comment in so many ways… James, oh James… what world do you live in?

  39. AJ
    16 Nov 12
    5:04 pm

  40. Great messaging – my whole office has been singing the tune after watching it only once. That’s a message that will last. Well done McCann!

  41. Glen Wheatley
    16 Nov 12
    5:23 pm

  42. Great tune. But ineffective I think in spreading a safety message.

    It’s way too long and gets lost in all the cute animation.

  43. derrick
    16 Nov 12
    5:45 pm

  44. Glen you have never been wronger

  45. DT
    16 Nov 12
    5:49 pm

  46. ATL still does not get it.

  47. John Grono
    16 Nov 12
    6:17 pm

  48. Good guess oil. I was thinking Angie Hart … but maybe that would have been Accident on Kelly Street.

  49. Mandy
    16 Nov 12
    7:48 pm

  50. I love this ad campaign. Everything about it. Yes it’s too long for the teev but it’s engaging enough for a long ad to keep you watching until the end. I have no doubt it will have shortened versions for tv and radio. I don’t like complimenting Metro as a rule but this ad has nailed it.

  51. Shabbadu
    16 Nov 12
    8:19 pm

  52. Great point Larry. This is so insensitive to friends and family members who have lost people to train accidents. Let’s do nothing so more people can die then they can all form a support group and work through their grief together.

    Great work McCann and Metro. Absolutely first class.

  53. Campbell
    16 Nov 12
    9:11 pm

  54. @John culvenor, I have found a new dumb way to die, read that dribble you typed out. Well done Metro, very clever ad

  55. Nathan
    16 Nov 12
    9:16 pm

  56. woahh so many haters.

    @Sandra Kingston – if you were only watching to look for the safety message, then you’ve missed the point.

    It’s a online video piece that needs to entertain in order to be able to get any message across.. you can’t just wack it in at the start.

    Hats off to McCann on this one, great video, website and tumblr to go with it. Bit of bravery by Metro also.

  57. Liam
    17 Nov 12
    12:32 am

  58. Brilliant stuff!

  59. Sudeep
    17 Nov 12
    8:24 am

  60. Great tune, great use of music. Nice work guys.

  61. Bobby Dazzler
    17 Nov 12
    8:39 am

  62. First chorus and I was out!

  63. John Culvenor
    17 Nov 12
    9:10 am

  64. The Metro advertisement might be entertaining to some but the key issue is that it is meant to be an effective safety intervention. Unfortunately this is where it will fail like most campaigns of this type. It may have some temporary effect on what is known as the elasticity in the safety outcomes. Think of level of hazard as a spring. Policing, awareness campaigns, exhortations from politicians and the like are about pushing the spring down, but the problem returns to the original state if we stop pushing, hence the effect is elastic. This is why campaigns continue. The TAC campaigns are an example of poor policy in this area. If they have any effect then it is temporary. There is no sustainable change. This is amply demonstrated in seeing that long-run systemic change in accident rates are the same in Victoria as elsewhere in Australia and are a result of design interventions not temporary exhortations or reminders. Plastic improvements – thus they do not return to the original state – are brought about by changes in design. The problem with the control of train speed, particularly deceleration, I believe is a fundamental difficulty, however IF we want to have trains in the urban space then accidents rates will only change with changes to design not with advertisements however interesting.

  65. Mike
    17 Nov 12
    10:07 am

  66. I use a bus and train every working day of my life, and overall I think Metro runs a pretty good service, but this looks like yet another case of social media gurus saying “Lets do an animation that will go viral we’ll get plaudits from our mates, probably get a story in Mumbrella which will be counted toward the media clips and probably entirely miss the target audience (but that’s not terribly important). Everyone in the industry will probably like its cutting edge use of jellybeans and it might even receive an obscure award which “the team” (and anyone who was at any of the meetings) will put in their CV to perpetuate the cycle.”
    I wonder if ‘the team’ actually uses public transport, trains particularly, on a regular basis?
    The fact that it took forever to get to the point was really annoying as was the song (and it’s no wonder the singer chose to remain anonymous – good move as this is a career defining moment). The issue of train delays caused by non-metro sources (cars trucks and buses, suicides, people with headphones walking onto tracks) is importantt because it has a ripple effect across the city that can affect thousands of people for hours or in the case of the recent truck v train at Dandenong, 5 days. It’s often not Metro’s fault, but if I’m stuck waiting on a train and miss my bus and there’s no explanation of why I’m stuck (seems to be driver discretion) they get the blame. PS if the guru who came up with this hasn’t gamified this, done some infographics, a couple of zines or organised a flashmob by COB Monday, they’re sacked!

  67. Andrei Gonzales
    17 Nov 12
    10:58 am

  68. @John: I’m sure people see your point, and no one doubts your concern, but you can only do so much to protect stupid people from themselves. To illustrate:

    “Look before you cross”
    “Watch your step”
    “Don’t play with fire”
    “Don’t swallow solvent”
    “Watch out for black ice”
    “Mind the gap”
    “Mind the beam”

    etc. etc.

    These are all basic life lessons, and yet, a few people still die because of them.

    There is a point where it’s no longer a safety issue, and simply an issue with the individual, and we need to draw the line somewhere, otherwise we will all be rolling around in plastic water balls just to get anywhere.

  69. Hugh
    17 Nov 12
    7:13 pm

  70. part of me wants to point out to the commenters that as much as you disagree w John, he *does* happen to have *academic publications* in the subject area. I question whether the rest of you do.

    It’s a nice cute video. Do I think it will change the way people act around trains? Unlikely, very unlikely.

    There’s a reason that the TAC and other big road safety organisations (RTA,…) doesn’t do cutesy campaigns like this around seatbelt safety or the like – because it’s largely ineffective at changing attitudes.

    I (and I imagine John would agree) would really like to see campaigns like this being lauded not as cute advertising, but as effective in creating change. And to do that, you need a serious research project attached to it – well beyond the standard market research out of an agency. Until campaigns like this have higher-level university academics properly involved in the planning and implementation of their evaluations, and these evaluations being transparent, I’ll remain skeptical about their effectiveness in public health / safety / social marketing.

  71. Dasha
    18 Nov 12
    1:03 am

  72. its brilliant!!!!

  73. Rat Smell
    18 Nov 12
    9:43 am

  74. To all the astro turfers – do one!

    Trains are full of people = germs = yuck!

  75. wolf
    18 Nov 12
    10:00 am

  76. Psst 80% of rail fatalities aren’t accidents:
    Perhaps the aim of the campaign is to suggest other methods of offing yourself so the number of rail fatalities come down that way?

  77. Maryanne
    18 Nov 12
    4:49 pm

  78. @John: unfortunately, Metro can’t hand out free brain cells aside it’s tickets. Last month, when there were two people hit within one day at the Frankston line, I was waiting for restart of service at Mordialloc, and what did I see? Teenagers sitting right at the edge of the platform,legs hanging down above the rails, ears plugged in with earphones, and apparently hoping that one would knock on their shoulders when the train arrives, and they wouldn’t accidentally fall on the rails when suddenly scared by that. How could Metro inhibit such irresponsible behaviour? They can’tput a guard beside every …..wit. :(

  79. sample of one
    18 Nov 12
    4:55 pm

  80. “my 5 y.o. grandson is mad keen on singing along with this and saying “i won’t eat glue, I won’t use a fork to get toast out, and I won’t cross train tracks unless you are holding my hand”. the messages have sunk in.”

    from youtube comments.

    maybe, just maybe, you can entertain AND deliver a message at the same time.

  81. Retail King
    19 Nov 12
    4:12 pm

  82. I bet the Big Burrito broke out in a nasty rash and started slamming his meaty palm against his forehead when he saw this. “Three minutes of cute animation to get your point across!! That’s not advertising … that’s freakin art or culcha or something for poofs!!!”

  83. Mike
    19 Nov 12
    4:28 pm

  84. “It was sung by a Melbourne artist who wants to remain anonymous” – pretty widely known it was Emily Lubitz from Tinpan Orange. This explains the name Tangerine Kitty used on iTunes – it’s a somewhat mashed combination of the bands the performers are in, Tinpan Orange and The Cat Empire.

  85. Christoph
    19 Nov 12
    7:09 pm

  86. So cute! Reminds me of Ready Steady Bang which is gory and funny at the same time …

  87. Safety Pete
    19 Nov 12
    8:06 pm

  88. John C, for safety in the workplace I agree with you, the accountablilty is almost 100% the employer’s (or PCBU!) with the situation often inducing people to put themselves in danger. However, outside of work personal accountabilty plays a much greater role as said by Andrei G. As for providing engineering solutions such as grade separations and platform doors they will be a long time coming due to fiscal restraints. Until then people have to take the responsibility for themselves. As for your idea of replacing trains with buses, that’s an environmental disaster.

  89. Safety Pete
    19 Nov 12
    8:11 pm

  90. I like the message as it makes people feel superior, as in “I wouldn’t a stupid thing like that”. It is well known that shock messages (eg: TAC, Quit) are not effective as it alienates the target audience.

  91. Michael
    19 Nov 12
    8:37 pm

  92. This will be most effective when the chorus is hummed or mumbled in the faces of the halfwits that push open the gates and run in front of arriving trains at my station every morning, and just scrape through the doors, puffing and wheezing, being held open by their halfwit mates… a very cutesy way to tell my fellow travellers how stupid they are.

  93. Texas Domestic Violence Laws
    20 Nov 12
    3:35 am

  94. Powerful. I agree.

  95. John Culvenor
    22 Nov 12
    10:07 am

  96. A few things:

    Trains are not environmentally friendly. Trains are not cars and some people think cars are bad. This is as far as the benefits of trains are analyzed. But that is a fairly shallow analysis. A train is simply a vehicle that runs on rails. They are long electric bus running on a network with complete inflexibility. The energy efficiency of steel wheel on steel rail in terms of rolling friction is mostly relevant in long run rural settings but lesser relevance in a stop-start urban rail line. While it involves lesser than usual benefits the steel on steel system creates significant deceleration limitations and the associated danger. The main environmental problem with the rail network in Melbourne is that it has expanded radially to the point where it is dysfunctional as a “home to destination” transport method. The trains carry people from one point of congestion (the city) to another (the suburban carparks). For many people trains do not take them to and from home. They do in a small part of the inner network. At present they promote car use at the end point. Buses on the other hand take people to and from home. This can be done because the route design is flexible and stops are easy to construct. Thus it is possible to create a network that actually reaches walking distance of home. Buses offer route flexibility. The rail reserves are underutilized at present by a system which has some hazards that are very difficult to control. These reserves are wide. They could generally accommodate a two way dedicated bus road plus a covered bicycle way. Buses (call it a mini train if it makes it seem more environmentally friendly) could then move to and from this dedicated path. The transport network would then be a point to point solution.

    Bicycle benefits: A present cycling is increasing along with cycling accidents. Barracking for safety in this area will do little. Ultimately little will change without better separation. The conversion of the rail reserves into bus and bicycle reserves would provide this change. The stern warnings that people should be more careful will change little. If we are ok with the level of accidents, then don’t change. But if we are not then we need new system ideas and the actions to follow.

    About behavior around trains, brain cells, etc. Yes, behavior of the users of the system will cause outcomes to vary somewhat. This is the elastic part of the risk. Advice, training, enforcement of rules, etc attempt to “push the spring down” so to speak. However, as these efforts wax and wane the outcomes still oscillate around that which is due to the design of the system. If we want to shift the danger fundamentally lower then the malleable of plastic part of the system needs altering. Barracking for safety is much like barracking for that next win on the horses.

    User behavior v designer behavior: a couple of examples

    1. Think about making a cup of tea using an old-fashioned kettle on the stove. Nearly every time a kettle on a stove boils dry and starts a fire we could say it is the result of careless inattention. Thus the behavior of the user could be said to be deficient. A solution that seems to follow is that the broad populace should be encouraged to be more careful (e.g. ad campaigns). The level of fires might reduce a little while the campaign is happening but the effect will be (a) marginal; (b) temporary; and (c) expensive in that its delivery must be very broad. These changes are elastic. The only way to induce a more substantial and sustainable change is through design – that is, a kettle that turns itself off.

    2. Lead can be a dangerous substance especially to children. One way of lead entering the body is through ingestion. If lead is in paint children, particularly toddlers, are exposed is by lead on window sills that gather condensation and where they put their hands (and on toys, cots and so forth). Lead tastes good being one of its unfortunate characteristics. Focusing on the behavior of the end-users we could encourage parents not to let toddlers chew on things or touch the walls. Again, there might be some effect, but ultimately and unfortunately things will return to normal without a design change.

    Influencing a few people who control a system (e.g. paint manufacturers, e.g. kettle makers, e.g. transport policy makers) is a more efficient, effective and sustainable form of change than barracking for users to do better. They will do about the same as the previous ones given the same circumstances.

    There is nothing wrong with the advertisement if you want a pop song and video. It is popular on Youtube. That is good if entertainment is the goal and probably points to it being well made artistically. But thinking that it will make either a substantial change short term or any change long term is not based on any logic in accident analysis.

    A question: Is there really any prospect that the accident rates over the next (say) three years at level crossings will be different from the previous three years?

  97. John Grono
    22 Nov 12
    1:18 pm

  98. John C, you make a point. We need an ad campaign to warn of the dangers of letting the kettle boil dry.

  99. Safety Pete
    22 Nov 12
    6:04 pm

  100. John G, You rock son! I’m bowing out of this and letting the marketing people have their forum back. Remember, practice safety mindfulness, it allows you to live longer …

  101. Ota
    25 Nov 12
    1:21 am

  102. Correct, the singer is no longer anonymous. She took the job for the same reason JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter ─ to get out of debt.

    Her name is Emily Lubitz and she is the lead singer of Melbourne indie band TinPan Orange.

  103. Josh
    29 Nov 12
    9:21 am

  104. its awesome

  105. Irrelevant
    29 Nov 12
    10:24 pm

  106. The ad seems popular with primary school kids which is good because all the people that I know personally that were hit by trains were primary school kids. I like the ad but also I do agree with both points that it is insensitive to victims family that ‘their family member’ died a ‘dumb way’ but I guess mortality is dumb. Getting tazered to death by police or stabbed in the heart by an animal you’re tying to protect or dying to cancer when there are atleast 2 inexpensive cures that exist – are all dumb ways to die.
    The ad is good because it works for kids, they acknowledge dangerous situations more due to this ad. Hopefully Metro also steps up in effective safety measures to balance this ball they have hit into the court of the public (saying we’re dumb when safety is a mutual issue)