Dumb Ways to Die: How to make a public information film people want to share

Dumb Ways to Die: How to make a public information film people want to share

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I remember as a child being sat in front of a TV at school to be shown a public information film about people being killed on the train tracks. It look dated at the time, and the scenario was played out soap-opera style with characters we didn’t yet have a connection with and a narrative that felt incomplete. The recent campaign from Metro Trains in Melbourne couldn’t be different.

Their Dumb Ways to Die campaign is a simple example of what can work well in social. The core video uses simple animation to show scenarios to look out for when using the train network. The video itself is shareable because it is simple, has a design that stands out as different and uses music not words (and so works in many cultures). It also mixes the serious rail safety messages with more irreverent (but also useful) messages such as to be careful of getting your head bitten off by a monster if you annoy it. These ‘ways to die’ get more and more ridiculous until you see three characters being killed by trains.

In the two weeks since the campaign was released the video was viewed 28 million times on YouTube, but perhaps what we can learn from most is how the idea was packaged in different ways to make it shareable. There is a temptation to think that a good concept will be shared, but sadly this is not always the case. You need to think about the form as well as the content.

Video is great, but it does not work as well on mobile (until we all move to 4G networks) and even a few minutes it a long time for people to watch. To help make the form more suitable to sharing, Metro Trains broke the video down into a series of GIFs on a Tumblr account. And it is this that provides the content that people can most readily share with others.

So whilst you might marvel at the brilliant creative behind the campaign, also marvel at the thinking of how it can be shared and consumed in a mobile-first, social consumer world. Whether we are designing public information campaigns or any other communications, we should be thinking of form, and how to help people consume and share our content as well as the creative idea. And we should be doing this in the knowledge that consumers are increasingly mobile-first.

Watch the Dumb Ways to Die video