How Music Propelled the Most Popular Campaign of the Year: McCann's 'Dumb Ways to Die'

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There aren't any grizzly bears or piranhas in Australia, but the lyrics of "Dumb Ways to Die" -- the Australian PSA that's been the biggest ad hit of 2013 -- feature them prominently.

The secret to the campaign's popularity was all in the music. Its signature silly lyrics and catchy tune were the brainchild of McCann Melbourne creatives. John Mescall, executive creative director, explains, "we wanted the song to have global appeal."

And it has; the music was what propelled millions around the world to take note of the campaign, view its music video or download the song. It was also a clever way to respond to a straightforward brief from a small, local marketer: the Australian Metro. McCann was tasked to encourage people to be safe around trains, an attempt to try and curb the number of yearly rail accidents the country was seeing.

"Dumb Ways to Die" was was released on YouTube as a three-minute animated video, featuring characters dying in zany ways -- from taking off a helmet in space, or using your "private parts" as piranha bait. At the end, it said that the dumbest ways to die had to be standing on the edge of a platform, or driving around the gates at a rail crossing. It played on the radio, and a karaoke version encouraged people to upload their own versions of the song. Social media activations on Tumblr, a smartphone game and a children's book were also part of the campaign. According to the case study, the Metro saw a 21% reduction in accidents and deaths compared with last year.

McCann's catchy cause campaign has topped the charts.
McCann's catchy cause campaign has
topped the charts.

Along with sweeping Cannes and other ad awards shows, "Dumb Ways to Die" racked up some impressive results on social media and music platforms. Here's a sampling to date:

  1. Music sales: Just over 100,000 copies sold to date.
  2. iTunes charts: 28 countries. Peaking at No. 3 in Hong Kong.
  3. Free downloads: 250,000
  4. Pirate downloads: Plenty
  5. Youtube views: 59.9 Million
  6. Social shares: 3.94 Million
  7. Game: 15.1 Million players
  8. Current daily players: 1 million
  9. App Store ranks: No. 1 free app in 18 countries including USA, U.K., Canada, Australia, Germany. Reached top 100 in 101 countries. Top 1,000 in 148 countries.
  10. Earned Media: $60 million in six weeks.

Source: McCann

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