Dumb Ways to Die is an Australian public service announcement campaign made by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia to promote railway safety.[1] The campaign video went viral through sharing and social media starting in November 2012.[2]

Dumb Ways to Die
Dumb Ways to Die.png
A screenshot from the animated video during the song's final chorus presents Numpty, Hapless, Pillock, Dippy, Dummkopf, Dimwit, Stupe, Lax, Doomed, Numskull, Bungle, Mishap, Dunce, Calamity, Ninny, Botch, Doofus, Stumble, Bonehead and Putz and their resulting deaths.
AgencyMcCann Melbourne
ClientMetro Trains Melbourne
Release date(s)2012


The campaign was devised by advertising agency McCann Melbourne. It appeared in newspapers, local radio and outdoor advertising throughout the Metro Trains network and on Tumblr.[3] John Mescall, executive creative director of McCann, said "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."[3] McCann estimated that within two weeks, it had generated at least $50 million worth of global media value in addition to more than 700 media stories, for "a fraction of the cost of one TV ad".[4] According to Metro Trains, the campaign contributed to a more than 30% reduction in "near-miss" accidents, from 13.29 near-misses per million kilometres in November 2011 – January 2012, to 9.17 near-misses per million kilometres in November 2012 – January 2013.[5]

Animated videoEdit

The video was animated by Julian Frost and produced by Cinnamon Darvall.[3] It was uploaded to YouTube on 14 November 2012 and made public two days later. It featured "Numpty, Hapless, Pillock, Dippy, Dummkopf, Dimwit, Stupe, Lax, Clod, Doomed, Numskull, Bungle, Mishap, Dunce, Calamity, Ninny, Botch, Doofus, Stumble, Bonehead and Putz".


The song "Dumb Ways to Die" from the video was written by John Mescall with music by Ollie McGill from The Cat Empire, who also produced it.[6] It was performed by Emily Lubitz, the lead vocalist of Tinpan Orange, with McGill providing backing vocals.[2] The band on the recording consists of Gavin Pearce on Bass, Danny Faruggia on drums and Brett Wood on guitar.[7] It was released on iTunes, attributed to the artist "Tangerine Kitty" (a reference to Tinpan Orange and The Cat Empire).[2][8] The song, with a tempo of 128 beats per minute, is written in C major and a time signature of 4/4.[9]

Chart (2012–13) Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[10] 9
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[11] 94
UK Indie (Official Charts Company)[12] 38

Video gameEdit

Dumb Ways to Die
Developer(s)Julian Frost
Samuel Baird
Publisher(s)Metro Trains Melbourne
Producer(s)Ollie McGill  
Platform(s)iOS, Android
  • WW: 6 May 2013
  • WW: 17 September 2013
Genre(s)Action game, Puzzle game

In May 2013, Metro released a "Dumb Ways to Die" game as an app for iOS devices.[13][14] The game, developed by Julian Frost and Samuel Baird,[15] invites players to avoid the dangerous activities engaged in by the various characters featured throughout the campaign.[16] Within the app, players can also pledge to "not do dumb stuff around trains."[17][18] The activities include things like getting toast out with a fork and poking a stick at a grizzly bear. An Android version was also eventually released in September 2013.[19]

The aim of the game is to earn as many points as possible by avoiding "dying" in one of the activities. Lives can be lost by "dying" in one of the activities. The player has three chances to prevent the characters from dying.

A sequel titled "Dumb Ways to Die 2: The Games" was released on 14 November 2014. In the sequel, there are a lot more varieties of challenges in each particular building, and each building has a particular theme. Before a train arrives at a building, the player plays a challenge to counter something related to trains. If successful, bonus points can be earned at the end of the game. There are 8 challenges each in every building. Like the original game, the game's characters do plenty of dangerous and unsafe activities. Lives can be lost by "dying" in one of the activities. The player has three chances to prevent the characters from dying.[citation needed]

The game is recently also available as a web and mobile-web version by MarketJS, license holder of the HTML5 web IP.

A second sequel titled "Dumb Ways to Die 3: World Tour" was released on 21 December 2017. Unlike the previous games which both involved the player playing minigames and trying to prevent the characters from dying, here the player collects coins from houses that are fixed up from being initially broken. The houses are fixed by the player playing a new minigame for each area containing those houses.[citation needed]


Susie O'Brien in the Herald Sun in Melbourne criticised the ad for trivialising serious injuries and being about advertisers' ego rather than effective safety messages.[20]

Simon Crerar of the Herald Sun wrote that the song's "catchy chorus was the most arresting hook since PSY's Gangnam Style."[7] Alice Clarke writing in the Herald Sun described the video as "adorably morbid" and wrote that Victoria's public transport "broke its long running streak of terrible ads".[21]

Daisy Dumas of the Sydney Morning Herald described it as "darkly cute — and irksomely catchy" and the chorus as "instant earworm material".[22]

Michelle Starr of CNET described the campaign as the Darwin Awards meets The Gashlycrumb Tinies and the song as "a cutesy indie-pop hit in the style of Feist".[23]

Logan Booker of Gizmodo described it as "taking a page out of the Happy Tree Friends book and mixing cute with horrifying".[24]

Karen Stocks of YouTube Australia said the video was unusual due to the high number of views from mobile devices.[25] Stocks attributed the success to "A snappy headline. A catchy tune that gets stuck in your head. And a message that is easy to understand and perfectly targeted."[25]

The Sunshine Coast Daily described it as "the Gangnam Style of train safety campaigns".[26]

Arlene Paredes of the International Business Times said the video was "brilliant in getting viewers' attention" and "arguably one of the cutest PSAs ever made."[27]

Effectiveness and unwanted repercussionsEdit

The campaign received some criticism on the basis that suicide is one of the most influential causes of rail trauma, and the ad reinforces deadly trains as a possible suicide method.[28] Writing in Mumbrella in February 2013, a former employee of Victoria's Department of Infrastructure advised critical thinking when evaluating claims made regarding improvements to safety. Reference was made specifically to the claimed 20 percent reduction in risky behavior as being "social media bullshit".[29]

Censorship in RussiaEdit

In February 2013, Artemy Lebedev's blog was censored by Roskomnadzor, the Russian government agency in charge of Internet censorship, for including the video.[30] Later that day, the YouTube video was also censored, with the "This content is not available in your country due to a legal complaint from the government" message. The official takedown notice sent to Livejournal.com was quoted, in part, by Lebedev in his blog.

The song's lyrics contains a description of different ways of committing suicide, such as: using drugs beyond their expiration date, standing on an edge of a platform, running across the rails, eating superglue and other. The animated personages demonstrate dangerous ways of suicide in attractive for children and teenagers comic format. The lines such as "hide in a dryer” and “What’s this red button do?" contain an incitement to commit those acts.

Despite this fact, the video was included into the ABC Show and was shown in more than 50 cities of Russia.


The campaign won seven Webby Awards in 2013 including the Best Animation Film & Video and Best Public Service & Activism (Social Content & Marketing).[31]

It won three Siren Awards, run by Commercial Radio Australia, including the Gold Siren for best advertisement of the year and Silver Sirens for the best song and best campaign.[32][33]

The public service announcement was awarded the Grand Trophy in the 2013 New York Festivals International Advertising Awards.[34]

In June 2013, the campaign clip won the Integrated Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity,[35] and overall, won five Grand Prix awards, 18 Gold Lions, three Silver Lions, and two Bronze Lions, which was the most for the campaign in the festival's history.[36]



Within two weeks, the video had spawned over 85 parodies.[37] Some renditions and parodies have been featured in national and international media:

Life Insurance PartnershipEdit

Due to their success, the Dumb Ways to Die characters have been featured in a promotional campaign for Empire Life Insurance, with their key message being, "the dumbest way to die is without life insurance."[53][54] However, the campaign was met with mixed reviews, with some advertising critics accusing Metro of "selling out" on a successful campaign.[55]


On 17 October 2014, the Dumb Ways to Die website was revamped to hint at a new installment of the campaign. Slated for release in November 2014, the games take on a more sporting, athletic, and fitness theme, and is labelled "Dumb Ways to Die 2: The Games".[56]



  1. ^ DumbWays2Die (14 November 2012). Dumb Ways to Die (YouTube). - official video link
  2. ^ a b c "Metro's tongue-in-cheek transport safety animated video goes viral on social media". The Age. 19 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "McCann's dumb ways to die". Australian Creative. 19 November 2012. Archived from the original on 19 November 2012.
  4. ^ "Aussie viral video, 'Dumb Ways to Die', lives on". The Age. 29 November 2012.
  5. ^ Stephen Cauchi (14 February 2013). "No dumb luck: Metro claims safety success". The Age. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  6. ^ "'Dumb ways to die' goes viral". 3AW. 19 November 2012. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Cute Melbourne safety video Dumb Ways to Die becomes internet smash". Herald Sun. 19 November 2012.
  8. ^ Gruger, William (10 December 2012). "Australian 'Dumb Ways to Die' Ad Goes Viral, Song Gains Sales". Billboard.
  9. ^ "Tangerine Kitty "Dumb Ways to Die" Sheet Music in C Major (transposable) - Download & Print - SKU: MN0127323". Musicnotes. 17 September 2017.
  10. ^ "Ultratop.be – Tangerine Kitty – {{{song}}}" (in Dutch). Ultratip. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  11. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Tangerine Kitty – {{{song}}}" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  12. ^ "Official Independent Singles Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  13. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die". Apple App Store. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  14. ^ "Dodge Piranhas and Swat Wasps in new 'Dumb Ways to Die' Game". Creativity Online. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  15. ^ Frost, Julian. "Dumb Ways to Die Game". julianfrost.co.nz. Julian Frost. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  16. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die: You have to Keep Them Alive, or Die Hilariously". App Chronicles. Archived from the original on 7 June 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  17. ^ Nudd, Tim. "Dumb Ways to Die Is Now a Video Game for the iPhone and iPad McCann Australia extends beloved train-safety ad". AdWeek. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  18. ^ "Dumb Ways To Die tops charts with new iPhone + iPad app game via McCann + Barrel Of Donkeys". Campaign Brief. Retrieved 27 May 2013.
  19. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die". Google Play Store. Retrieved 18 September 2013.
  20. ^ O'Brien, Susie (25 November 2012). "Ego trip a dumb way to tackle rail safety". The Herald Sun.
  21. ^ "How we've cornered the market in terrible advertising". Herald Sun. 26 November 2012.
  22. ^ Dumas, Daisy (19 November 2012). "Being dumb is almost cool with surprise advertising hit". Sydney Morning Herald.
  23. ^ Starr, Michelle (19 November 2012). "Metro Trains PSA details dumb ways to die". CNET.
  24. ^ Booker, Logan (19 November 2012). "Adorable, Yet Horrifying Metro Trains Safety Video Quietly Becomes A YouTube Sensation". Gizmodo.
  25. ^ a b Stocks, Karen (19 November 2012). "Mobile devices help 'Dumb ways to die' become the fastest spreading Australian viral brand video of all time". mUmBRELLA.
  26. ^ "Dumb ways to die video the Gangam Style of train safety". Sunshine Coast Daily. 20 November 2012.
  27. ^ "Viral Video with 8M Views: "Dumb Ways to Die" Melbourne Metro Ad - Cute, Twisted, Brilliant". International Business Times. 5 January 2013. Archived from the original on 25 January 2013.
  28. ^ Dumb Ways To Die – A Strange Sense of Success Retrieved 16 July 2013
  29. ^ Karalee Evans (11 February 2013). "Dumb Ways To Die and social media bullshit". Mumbrella. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  30. ^ "Post on your blog for clip on blocked Lebedeva stupid ways to commit suicide". Lenta.ru. 5 February 2013.
  31. ^ "Melbourne rail safety message wins Webby". The Age. 1 May 2013.
  32. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die dominates Sirens". B&T. 10 May 2013.
  33. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die campaign dominates best radio ads of the year". Commercial Radio Australia. Archived from the original on 8 August 2013.
  34. ^ "Dumb Ways does it again". australiancreative.com.au. 4 May 2013. Archived from the original on 10 July 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  35. ^ Sweney, Mark (2013). "Cannes Lions: Dumb Ways to Die scoops top award". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  36. ^ "Quirky 'Dumb Ways to Die' campaign sweeps advertising awards". Reuters. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
  37. ^ Moses, Asher (29 November 2012). "Aussie viral video, 'Dumb Ways to Die', lives on". Sydney Morning Herald.
  38. ^ Grenoble, Ryan (28 November 2012). "'Cool Things To Find' Parodies 'Dumb Ways To Die' PSA With Spoof Starring Mars Rover (VIDEO)". Huffington Post.
  39. ^ Starr, Michelle (28 November 2012). "Dumb Ways to Die parody is even more fun". CNET.
  40. ^ "Dumb Movie Ways to Die - Dumb Ways to Die Parody". YouTube. 20 March 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  41. ^ a b Johnston, Rich (25 June 2013). "Dumb Ways To Die Cleans Up At Cannes - And In Parodies - Bleeding Cool Comic Book, Movies and TV News and Rumors". Bleedingcool.com.
  42. ^ a b c "6 Awesome 'Dumb Ways To Die' Parodies On YouTube". SocialTimes. 20 December 2012.
  43. ^ Diaz, Ann-Christine (2 October 2013). "GTA V Meets 'Dumb Ways to Die' in YouTube Parody Video". Advertising Age.
  44. ^ Taube, Aaron (3 October 2013). "This 'Grand Theft Auto V' Themed Spoof Of The 'Dumb Ways To Die' Ad Is Tremendous". Business Insider. India.
  45. ^ Nudd, Tim (13 April 2015). "Dumb Ways to Die, Game of Thrones Edition, Chronicles Show's Notable Demises Thus Far Plenty of untimely ends". AdWeek. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  46. ^ Nudd, Tim (28 April 2014). "Creative Ideas Die Messy Deaths in Ad School's 'Dumb Ways' Parody". Adweek.
  47. ^ "YouTube". www.youtube.com. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  48. ^ "My Little Pony Dumb Ways to Die". 10 July 2013 – via YouTube.
  49. ^ "New and Fresh from The Maccabeats: Smart Ways to Live". Israelnationalnews.com. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  50. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die - Happy Tree Friends Edition (Version 2.0)". YouTube. 23 March 2014. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  51. ^ "fun ways to die parody of dumb ways to die". YouTube. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  52. ^ "Queremos Vivir en Caracas". YouTube. 23 September 2013. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  53. ^ "The Unexpected Happens Everyday - Empire Life Insurance". 1 July 2014. Archived from the original on 15 July 2014.
  54. ^ "The dumbest way to die is without life insurance, Empire Life launches new advertising campaign". 29 May 2014. Archived from the original on 5 August 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  55. ^ Nudd, Tim (12 June 2014). "Nothing's Sacred: Dumb Ways to Doe Now Being Used to Hawk Life Insurance". Adweek.
  56. ^ "Mumbrella Asia - New Dumb Ways to Die Spin off game launches". 24 October 2014.
  57. ^ "Dumb Ways to Die - Melbourne International Film Festival (official video)". Metro Trains. Retrieved on 22 December 2014.

External linksEdit