Train safety and press ethics are on a lot of people's minds after the New York Post published a harrowing photo of a man about to be hit by a New York City Subway train. Ironically, a PSA out of Australia designed to keep people safe around trains has spent two weeks as No. 1 on the Viral Video Chart.
Created by McCann for Melbourne Metro Trains, (and perhaps insensitively titled given the week's events "Dumb Ways to Die"), the spot uses a stuck-in-your-head kind of song and animation to illustrate ill-advised activities – like poking a grizzly bear or taking your helmet off in outer space – before getting to its point about being safe and cautious around train tracks.
The campaign, which now has a total of 35 million views, includes more than 100 clips related to the original video, according to Visible Measures. Clips include covers of the song (many of them played on a ukulele), as well as parodies of the PSA. One of the more creative parodies comes from the Seattle-based group Cinesaurus. Called "Cool Things to Find," it features NASA's Curiosity discovering a number of interesting things on Mars.
But let's hope that the song, and the parodies it inspired, haven't obscured the message: train safety is serious and very important. Given the tragedy in New York, one has to wonder if this kind of a PSA gives enough weight to the subject matter. But it's a tough balance for organizations creating PSAs; the video needs to be informative and yet interesting enough to go viral.
One campaign that pulled that off in a big way was "Embrace Life," a seatbelt campaign from The Sussex Safer Roads Partnership. The ad didn't use any shocking images of crashes – like many driver safety PSAs do – or even have a car in it. Still it was able to show the necessity of wearing a seatbelt in a very memorable way. It won the inaugural YouTube Ad of the Year Award in 2010, as well as a Viral Video Award from Ad Age .