Dumb Ways To Die Was Born Out Of Simplicity

I always like to read “how they did that” accounts of good advertising work. On Adweek today, there’s a good account of McCann Australia’s effort for train safety, which features a video showing “Dumb Ways To Die.” Frankly, this song is so damn catchy I downloaded it, burned it to a CD and am playing it in my car. It actually puts me in a good mood.

But if Adweek’s story is right, the whole idea was born of simplicity and letting creatives have fun with contrarian thinking. There were a couple of points that stuck out to me:

“The idea for a song started from a very simple premise: What if we disguised a worthy safety message inside something that didn’t feel at all like a safety message?” said McCann executive creative director John Mescall. “So we thought about what the complete opposite of a serious safety message would be and came to the conclusion it was an insanely happy and cute song.”

Then Mescall wrote the lyrics mostly in one night, tweaking a little bit afterward to make it better. Then, it came time to set it to music and animation:

Australian musician Ollie McGill from the band The Cat Empire wrote the music. “We basically gave him the lyrics and told him to set it to the catchiest nonadvertising type music he could,” said Mescall…Australian designer Julian Frost did the animation. “We gave him the most open brief we could: Just make it really funny and really awesome and do it to please yourself.”

Wow. Was it really as simple as having people do the kind of work that they would be pleased with?

That’s a lesson for any marketer. Now granted, this is for a PSA with no product to sell, but I bet most CMOs would kill for their own “Dumb Ways To Die.” Perhaps the secret is to let creatives be…creative.

About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.