Wanting to raise awareness about the nonsensical and stupid behavior people have around trains, the suburban railway network Metro Trains Melbourne approached McCann Melbourne with an idea to identify a good way to make pedestrians more conscious about their safety near railways.

The strict schedule followed by trains makes them highly predictable when arriving at stations. This is why train accidents may be considered the stupidest way to unintentionally kill oneself. The “Dumb Ways to Die” advert, one of the most successful ad campaigns of all time, shows precisely the silliness of these accidents and promotes rail safety through a perfect mix of morbid humor, friendly and colorful characters, and a catchy song that sticks to listeners’ mind.

This week’s #ThrowBrandThursday hosts the campaign’s foolish characters and their ridiculous ways they end their lives. A video developed by Pat Baron, produced by Cinnamon Darvall, and animated by Julian Frost, was released alongside the initiative and presents the silly and tragic death of each of the creatures that make the cast of the campaign: Numpty, Hapless, Pillock, Dippy, Dummkopf, Dimwit, Stupe, Lax, Doomed, Numskull, Bungle, Mishap, Dunce, Calamity, Ninny, Botch, Doofus, Stumble, Bonehead, and Putz.

Do the deaths of some vivid characters sound familiar? We’re not talking about South Park’s unlucky Kenny, or the Happy Three Friends, but rather about a similar set characters that were invented to promote a good cause as well. Using the same dose of black humor, FCB New York and FDA created the Little Lungs dude, who horrifyingly “kicks the bucket” due to smoking.

The current dumb story follows the characters’ silly daily tasks that eventually lead to their awful death: from eating medicine that’s out of date, to inviting a psychotic killer inside their home, to even selling kidneys on the Internet. The climax of the campaign is only reached at the end of the 3-minute-long video when the last three cute figures are smashed and killed by trains.

Even though it received a lot of criticism and was banned in Russia on the grounds that it exposed different methods of committing suicide, this cute yet dark campaign became incredibly successful. After the first day of its YouTube launch, the song, by artist Tangerine Kitty, entered the Top 10 chart on iTunes. And because the catchy song was so well-received, a karaoke version was made, so anyone could sing along to the popular chorus.

worldwide phenomenon was unfolding before our eyes. Within the first 24 hours since its launch, the video recorded 2.5 million views. That number doubled on the third day and reached over 147 million views.

The brutal stories of the ignorant friends stood as an inspiration source for the first “Dumb Ways to Die” game app. Although in May 2013 the app was only available for iOS, months later the Android users were also able to enjoy the game that invited users to prevent the characters from dying in silly actions. In 2014, the second version of the game was released, the app being a perfect tool to carry the “safety around trains” message.

Each element of the award-winning campaign urged viewers to access its official website, and therefore to be more alert regarding their safety around railways, with more than 127 million people joining the cause. Moreover, the fascinating site turns out to be a good source for fans to bring the adorable characters with them wherever they go.

Being so well received by the internet, the PSA with an incredibly strong message also included a series of illustrations and a couple of holiday themed videos.

Dumb Ways to Die was awarded at a D&AD, Webbys, Spikes Asia, One Show, Effies, L.I.A., ADMA award and entered in Cannes Lion’s history for being the most awarded campaign by winning 28 awards, including five Grands Prix.


Client: Metro Trains Melbourne

Agency: McCann Melbourne