Smart Ways to Advertise

A railway safety advert that’s been tunefully taking Australia by storm has penetrated the international conscious after winning the ‘biggie’ of the advertising world: the Cannes Lions Grand Prix.

The ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ ad is beautifully simple and has all the hallmarks of a great, modern campaign. It’s funny, it’s catchy, it appeals to adults and kids alike, it eschews worthiness – and it has more than a touch of schadenfreude.

Crucially the team at McCann Melbourne have managed what many of their advertising contemporaries are failing to achieve: shareability. The ad has already spawned at least three parody videos (each of which has been watched over a million times), and is now being turned into a children’s book. The advertising world has been too slow to respond to the changing ways in which we now engage with brands. We get our information from a multitude of platforms simultaneously, and our relationship is a dynamic one – we want to share, comment, and even create our own tributes.  The worlds of advertising and PR are converging; we now want both to be given great content and to be engaged in conversation, in one tidy package.

‘Dumb Ways to Die’ gets it. In an era when advertising seems to be dominated by a constant race for the flashiest effects and the most expensive production values, it’s proof positive that a great idea will still win out when it comes to harnessing the power of the crowd.

The campaign calls to mind another Aussie creative hit, Tourism Queensland’s ‘The Best Job in the World’ stunt, when the agency sought someone to ‘house-sit’ an island in the Great Barrier Reef for six months, offering a large salary and lodging in a multi-million dollar villa. The stunt created looping narratives with fantastic international reach that ran for months across countless platforms as word spread. It was ultimately calculated to have achieved more than $200m in global publicity value.

With their national cricket team failing to perform on the pitch, perhaps young Australians are turning their talents to the creative media industries instead.