Dumb Ways

I thought these guys were dead.

But there they were, large as life in the Bourke Street Mall on Valentine’s Day – which probably explains the balloons.

Dumb Ways To Die characters in the Bourke Street Mall

Why? Honestly I don’t know, but the characters went way beyond the originals after the franchise was sold off in 2021 – almost to ridiculous extremes.

Anybody want to buy a Dumb Ways NFT? (Though even this 2014 life insurance ad from Canada is pretty tacky.)

Originally of course, it was just a rail safety campaign.

Coincidentally this week I listened to a podcast from 2021 that goes into some detail about how the campaign was first created.

It’s pretty interesting. They interview a wide range of people involved in it. Nobody from Metro is included directly, but they do get quoted from time to time:

This version had the beans (characters) that had been run over by trains or hit by trains with bandages around their heads, and sticking plasters and arms in slings etc. And Leah the senior client said to me… “If you get hit by a train, you’re going to need more than a bandage. Can you make it more violent?”

They also touch on a question many of us had wondered about: how effective was it? It’s hard to measure, and it depends what you’re measuring.

A decrease in unsafe behaviour around trains? Anecdotally yes, and some early studies thought there was an initial reduction in near misses and accidents.

But long term effects are really difficult to measure given the song was released a couple of years before a massive program of level crossing removals commenced.

On the podcast they also talk about the value to the Metro brand, including left-field things like increased employee satisfaction with the company.

I found it pretty interesting. Worth a listen.

The Story of ‘Dumb Ways to Die,’ the Beloved Megaviral Musical

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

2 replies on “Dumb Ways”

There was a well-known figure in occupational health and safety circles, who I’d describe as a contrarian academic, who railed against this campaign because it was focused on unsafe behaviours causing death around the railway tracks, instead of suicides which he claimed were a greater cause of death on the rails. He might be right about the deaths but that’s not a reason not to run this campaign. The other problem doesn’t necessarily lend itself to resolution with a bright and breezy jingle, but never mind.

I feel like PTV could benefit from merchandising from things like this. In some places, they sell clothes in the style of train liveries and seat moquettes along with plushies.

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