Post B: Morbid Creativity

By Ronan Collins

As a child, no public health campaign left a more memorable impact than the Metro Trains Melbourne campaign to promote railway safety; Dumb Ways to Die. Since it’s 2012 creation, the campaign evolved into a multi-channel transdisciplinary product branching over almost every conceivable form of media. Intended to reduce avoidable deaths and accidents around Melbourne train-tracks, it aimed to change the public mindset towards unsafe behaviour. 

Metro Melbourne, 2012, Dumb Ways to Die, Video Recording.

Metro Trains hired advertisement agency McCann Melbourne with aims at creating entertainment rather than didactic advertising (Mescall 2013). Prime objectives included a reduction of accidents around level crossings and station platforms, the generating of PR regarding the message of rail safety, the creation of a safety pledge system and to largely increase public awareness around train transport (Australian Effie Awards 2013). With its first implementation being a YouTube video uploaded 12 November 2012; within 14 days the video had reached 30 million views. This success can be credited to a multitude of design choices; both the song and animation’s simplistic and catchy direction combined with the use of humour in its premise. It received an extremely warm reception which extended much further than Victoria, promoting railway safety throughout Australia. This evolved into a multi-channel product with assets of the campaign transformed into teaching tools for kids in the form of a book, video games, and more song releases (Diaz 2013). Locally, Metro Train posters featuring previously animated characters were placed in and around stations.

According to Metro Trains general manager Leah Waymark, the campaign saw a 20% drop in “risky behaviour” within 3 months of the video’s release (Waymark 2013). Within a year, the near miss and accidents per million kilometres decreased from 13.29 to 9.17 (McCann 2013). Although the campaign had a large impact on a younger audience than expected, and is suggested to have not impacted the target demographic to such a degree (Ward 2015). Adrian Mills stated that the impact of the campaign has transformed into a more long term model with a “cohort of young Victorians who have played a rail safety message on their phones by the time they start taking public transport themselves”.

Universally, the nature of subverting the expectations of a public service announcement in a method which is both simplistic and appealing can be further explored. Similar tactics can be used in raising awareness regarding the ‘addictive and harmful’ nature of Tobacco (FCTC 2015) with a focus on public consumers making ‘dumb’ choices. 


Diaz, A. 2013, ‘Inside Dumb Ways to Die’, ‘Advertising Age’, vol. 84, Iss. 40, pp. 4-7.

Katumba, K. 2018, ‘Campaign of the week: Dumb Ways to Die’, Smart Insights, 28 September, viewed 20 November 2019, <>.

McCann Melbourne, 2012. Dumb Ways to Die Posters, Metro Trains, viewed 21 November 2019, <>.

Metro Melbourne, 2012, Dumb Ways to Die, Video Recording, YouTube, viewed 19 November 2019, <>.

Ward, M. 2015, ‘Has Dumb Ways to Die Been Effective?’, Mumbrella, 30 January, viewed 20 November 2019, <>.

World Health Organisation, 2015, ‘WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: Guidelines for Implementation of Article 5.3 Articles 8 to 14’, 2013 Edition, World Health Organisation, Geneva Switzerland. 

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