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By Steven Raeburn, N/A

June 11, 2013 | 4 min read

McCann Melbourne’s Dumb Ways to Die campaign has not only contributed to a 30 per cent drop in rail safety incidents, but made a clean sweep at the Siren Awards, and is being tipped by creatives across the globe - including a group The Drum asked to choose their favourite contenders - to win at Cannes. The Drum caught up with McCann's John Mescall who designed the campaign whilst he was en route to the Cannes Lions, to find out why an essentially local ad resonates so strongly across the world.

What reaction have you got to the ad?A little surprisingly, the campaign is really well liked by a whole lot of people. I say 'surprisingly' because normally when you do something a little bit odd, you tend to polarise people into lovers and haters. But people all over the world have related to the campaign: it's got loads of traction across all age groups from 6-year-olds to their grandparents… and also in all parts of the world: it's big in Asia, the South Americans seem to really like it, Europe… and of course at home too.Importantly, it seems to be working. Not only have accidents and deaths reduced on the Metro system in Melbourne but we have successfully created a framework for the whole topic of rail safety. It was never a topic of conversation before, especially amongst young people.I think people respond well to it because they appreciate someone taking the effort to deliver a public safety message in an entertaining way. Usually these things are either (deliberately) repellant or just plain dull.Why has it worked? (Or did it work on all the levels you hoped it would?)I think it's worked because it has allowed people to adopt the message and have fun with it. It's hugely likeable, and contains language that is tailor-made for sharing. It's given people a way in which they can call out stupid behaviour without them losing cred amongst their friends. Our No.1 goal was always to shift rail safety from invisible to becoming a part of popular culture. But it would be fair to say that the extent of the success, and certainly the speed in which we got there, was a little surprising.What was the inspiration?Our agency motto is Truth Well Told, and really that's all we did here. Getting accidentally hit by a train is really stupid and entirely preventable. Annoyingly so. We just wanted to call that out. Also, we needed to get young people to hear the message and we knew that if we made a traditional PSA we would only repel them. So we figured, why not try to make a PSA that attracts, instead of repels? So we wrote a song.Did the idea materialise immediately, or did it take a long time to arrive?The idea had a couple of weeks in gestation I guess. It followed the usual path: a whole lot of rubbish ideas, something that we really liked… and then something that we really, really liked. Execution took longer, we wanted to get every last detail just perfect. And in that, our client was great: never once did they rush us because we all knew that when creating content you hope will be shared, attention to detail is everything. Do you see the campaign as quintessentially Australian, or is it universal?A little of both, perhaps. I think maybe the sensibility is quintessentially Australian, in that we aren't afraid to take the piss (as we way) out of serious subjects. But the message and the brand of humour is pretty universal. Most people, no matter where they live, enjoy a healthy dose of irreverence. The problem is, their institutions tend towards social conservatism and so they don't get as much of it as perhaps they should.Where does the ad sit in the pantheon of McCann hits?McCann's done some pretty famous work in its 100 year history, so it'd be presumptuous of me to rank dumb ways to die. Sorry.
Cannes Lions Dumb Ways To Die

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