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Why “Dumb Ways” is Smart


Provoking a bear and getting eaten. Being stripped down to the bone by piranhas. Setting yourself on fire. Swallowing unknown chemicals. All dumb ways to die, but the dumbest (and more likely) ways are standing on the edge of a rail platform, driving through train crossing gates and running across train tracks. At least, that’s according to Melbourne Metro Trains, whose public service announcement video, entitled “Dumb Ways to Die”, has really hit the spot, garnering over 27 million views on YouTube, been featured in conventional media and even spawned a karaoke version.

Created by John Mescall, the video’s combination of cute cartoon characters being decimated in the most horrific of ways (ala Happy Tree Friends, for fans of graphic violence), an incredibly infectious tune and a simple message that just sticks, has made it a huge success, not just in Australia, but all around the world.

“Dumb Ways” is yet another example of a video done with the right amount of insight, care and purpose, mixed with outlandish humour and an irreverence that is at once endearing and shocking, but delivering a clear, focused message that is easily absorbed and digested. It has all the classic trademarks of highly shareable (and therefore, virable) content; it’s humorous, it’s different, it’s slightly defiant and provocative, it agrees with a mass worldview and, probably most importantly, IT’S NOT BORING OR PREACHY.

So the next someone ask “But will it go viral?”, do the smart thing; show them some “Dumb Ways” to do it.


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