What CEOs Can Learn From “Dumb Ways to Die”
From executing strategic vision to communicating high performance standards to being ultimately responsible for all day-to-day management decisions and for implementing the company’s long and short term plans, a CEO has his work cut out for him. With great power comes great responsibility, so when the company is in the red and heads have to roll, the members of the board almost always look at the CEO first. Then again, there are times when everything just seems to click, such as when a campaign’s results exceed expectations. Or when an ad goes so insanely viral you can’t measure it’s effect. More often than not, the CEO gets the applause even when he may not be the top creative mind and all he did was approve the budget. The point is, when things go well, nothing beats the feeling of being there at the top staring down at the mortals.
Let’s take a look at the “Dumb Ways to Die” campaign by Metro Trains in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, the most awarded and talked about campaign in recent years, and what other CEOs can learn from this campaign.
“Dumb Ways to Die” was a model of success on so many levels that it should be in advertising textbooks already.
The fact that it’s not for profit – it’s simply a public service announcement campaign by Metro Trains to promote rail safety – just makes it all the more remarkable. When the guys at McCann Melbourne, the ad agency that handled the campaign, got the memo, all they wanted was to engage an audience that really doesn’t want to hear any kind of safety message, specifically the young commuters. The result left the client awestruck as much as it did the ad agency.
What did they do right?
If you ask McCann Melbourne, they didn’t really adopt an advertising model. Instead, they focused on content. Still, I have reason to believe the ad had the workings of a conventional advertising model that just happened to have superior content across the board. And don’t forget an engaged audience. Here’s how a traditional ad works:
Attention. The ad must be compelling enough to grab the target market’s attention.
The first step for McCann Melbourne and Metro Trains was to produce and record a music video called “Dumb Ways to Die, which was the main shareable piece of content. It featured a cute song (easy to sing along with, nice rhyme and meter, simple rhythm) with funny cartoon characters dying in ridiculous ways. It ended with a reference to the main point: railway safety. “Dumb Ways to Die” really started from a truly engaging and a well thought-through piece of content.
Interest. Of course, it must be interesting.
The way McCann framed the content made the audience want to keep singing and finding out other ridiculous ways to die – not that they’re looking for ideas but because you didn’t want the song and the animation to end. For the record, there were more than 20 “dumb ways to die” in the song including “using drugs beyond their expirat