‘Dumb’ marketers find a winning formula

Last year, Australian marketing firm, McCann debuted a "cutely morbid" ad for Metro Trains that was aimed at stopping dummies from doing stupid things on or near Metro's railway system. The ad, which you can view below, brilliantly uses colorful blobs that find several "Dumb Ways to Die," including poking a grizzly bear with a stick, scratching a drug dealer's brand new ride, or using your private parts as piranha bait.

Add one helluva catchy tune to the ad, and you've got yerself a success there, cuz. So, successful, in fact, that the campaign won a record-breaking five Grands Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Better than a sharp stick in the eye, eh? Which, also would be a dumb way to die.

Anyway, so how did they do it? As Advertising Age points out, the most visible aspect of the campaign was the ad, but there was much more to the campaign that earned it the "mad props" the kids like so much.

Strong Content

I can hear your "Duh?!" through my screen, but this can't be re-iterated enough. Without strong, engaging content to keep a target audience's interest, an advertising campaign is sunk.


The ad was initially launched online, which is a cost effective move that increases opportunities for eyeballs on the ad exponentially.

The marketers also created content that was applicable to a broad range of people. The blobs are race and gender neutral. The ad, also isn't overly long, clocking in at 3 minutes, increasing the likelihood that the clip will be shared and viewed in its entirety.

Have a Story to Tell

Not always possible, but when it is, it's wise to seize on an opportunity to tell a story behind the idea. In this case, the song was the result of two Australian bands, Cat Empire and Tinpan Orange, merging together to create a new band, dubbed Tangerine Kitty.

McCann launched the song on iTunes, SoundCloud and other services, creating a veritable hit for the campaign and Tangerine Kitty.


When an advertising campaign is able to appear on a number of platforms it increases its longevity. When the "Dumb" marketers noticed that the ad's popularity was starting to wane, they launched an app that became the #2 free app in 20 countries, including Australia, the UK, and the United States.

Many ad campaigns don't have the budget that this one did, but opportunities for diversity and longevity should be considered whenever possible.


McCann took the campaign offline, using the amorphous blobs in posters and displays where people were encouraged to take pictures with the characters.

Fan Love

Every marketers dream ... an ad campaign that people love so much that they create their own parodies or you see other brands replicating the idea, keeping that pub train rolling. Think about the highly successful "got milk?" campaign, or, if you're as old as I am, the California Raisins campaign, which was built around an animated raisin R&B group.

Again, not all of these aspects are achievable within every ad campaign, but the "Dumb Ways to Die" campaign is an example of an advertising perfect storm when a campaign is firing on all cylinders.

Nonetheless, these are the type of results marketers should aspire to no matter the size of a given campaign.

On the web: How 'Dumb Ways to Die' won the Internet, became the no. 1 campaign of the year

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