McCann Australia for Metro Trains Melbourne – Is “Dumb Ways To Die” the new “Chipotle”?

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“Dumb Ways to Die”, is an integrated advertising campaign designed to curb the number of train-related deaths in Victoria. The campaign is centred around a three-minute animated music video, highlighting the many dumb ways there are to die, with being hit by a train – a very preventable death – among them. The video and iTunes single are accessible online at DumbWaysToDie.com, with animated gifs being released on Tumblr, on radio, in posters on small and large space outdoor and throughout the Metro Trains network, with the lyrics to the song on the art work.

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The Idea: Safety PSAs are gloomy and tedious and largely ignored by young people hardwired to resist them—except when they’re irresistibly fun and impossible not to share with friends. McCann Australia managed just such an evolution of the genre with “Dumb Ways to Die” its animated train-safety spot for the Melbourne Metro. The three-minute music video shows adorable blobs making the stupidest decisions ever—messing with animals, sticking forks in toasters, eating superglue, etc.—leading to all sorts of gruesome, fatal accidents. The dumbest way to die, the ad suggests at the end, is by being careless around trains. “The idea for a song started from a very simple premise: What if we disguised a worthy safety message inside something that didn’t feel at all like a safety message?” said McCann executive creative director John Mescall. “So we thought about what the complete opposite of a serious safety message would be and came to the conclusion it was an insanely happy and cute song.” With more than 30 million YouTube views, it seems happy, cute and grisly was the way to go.

The Song: The song begins, “Set fire to your hair/Poke a stick at a grizzly bear/Eat medicine that’s out of date/Use your private parts as piranha bait,” before the chorus repeats the two lines, “Dumb ways to die/So many dumb ways to die.” Mescall wrote most of the lyrics in one night at the agency. “It then took a few weeks of finessing,” he said, “getting rid of a few lines that weren’t funny enough and replacing them with new ones.” The line “Sell both your kidneys on the Internet” was a late inclusion. “I’m glad it’s there. It’s my favorite,” he said.

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Australian musician Ollie McGill from the band The Cat Empire wrote the music. “We basically gave him the lyrics and told him to set it to the catchiest nonadvertising type music he could,” said Mescall. McGill delivered something almost unbearably catchy. “The melody is easy to remember and sing along to, the lyrics are fun, bite-sized chunks of naughtiness, and the vocals have just the right amount of knowing innocence,” Mescall said. “It’s a song that you want to hate for living in your head, but you can’t bring yourself to hate it because it’s also so bloody likable.” The singer is Emily Lubitz of another Australian band, Tinpan Orange. (The song is credited to Tangerine Kitty, which is a mashup of the two band names.) “Emily brought a great combination of innocence, playfulness and vocal integrity,” Mescall said. “She brings a level of vocal quality you don’t normally get on a video about cartoon death.”

The Art Direction: Australian designer Julian Frost did the animation. “We gave him the most open brief we could: Just make it really funny and really awesome and do it to please yourself,” said Mescall. The visual reference points ranged from Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies to Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” (which showed men singing while being crucified) to “any number of hokey indie music-video flash mobs you see on YouTube,” said Mescall.

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“Julian was keen to contrast the extreme situations described in the lyrics with the simplest animation possible. Otherwise it would become just too much.” After the spot blew up online, Frost wrote on his website: “Well, the Internet likes dead things waaay more than I expected. Hooray, my childish sense of humor pays off at last.”

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The spot lives online, in short bursts on music TV, and may reach cinemas. The campaign is also running in radio, print and outdoor. The song is on iTunes, where it reached the top 10. The agency is also producing a book as well as a smartphone game that should be ready by Christmas.

Advertising Agency: McCann, Melbourne
Executive Creative Director: John Mescall
Creative Team: John Mescall, Pat Baron
Animation: Julian Frost
Digital Team: Huey Groves, Christian Stocker
Year: 2012

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Chipotle Mexican Grill – Back to the Start



Chipotle Mexican Grill has produced a new stop-motion animated short film called “Back to the Start” that depicts a farmer’s journey to sustainable farming. The film — a first for Chipotle — was directed by London-based Johnny Kelly and features a cover of the Coldplay song “The Scientist,” sung by music icon and family farm advocate Willie Nelson.
Chipotle plans to show the two-minute film nationally beginning in September. It will appear on nearly 5,700 movie theater screens in advance of feature films and will educate consumers about Chipotle’s favored farming methods, and demonstrate the differences between industrial farming and more sustainable methods. It can also be viewed online at Chipotle.com or on Facebook at Facebook.com/chipotle.



“We have always understood the importance of serving food that is raised right,” said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. “We produced this film to help illustrate the choices people face in deciding what to eat, and hope that it will encourage people to choose food that is raised with respect for the land, the animals, and the farmers that produce it.”

The film’s subject matter is enhanced by Nelson’s cover of Coldplay’s song, “The Scientist.” It follows the story of a farmer whose family farm has evolved over time into a factory farm. In a moment of self-reflection, the farmer realizes that his animal factory is not consistent with his vision for the farm. As the song lyrics suggest, the farmer goes “back to the start” by ridding his farm of its factory qualities and returning to more sustainable farming methods.

The song is available for purchase on iTunes, with proceeds ($.60 per download) benefitting the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, which provides funding to support sustainable agriculture, family farming, and culinary education.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for Willie Nelson, both as a musician and for his extraordinary efforts to support family farming,” said Ells. “We are thrilled to have his support for this project and hope that working together, we can help people understand the importance of food that is raised right.”


About Chipotle
Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO, started Chipotle with the idea that food served fast did not have to be a typical fast food experience. Today, Chipotle continues to offer a focused menu of burritos, tacos, burrito bowls (a burrito without the tortilla) and salads made from fresh, high-quality raw ingredients, prepared using classic cooking methods and served in a distinctive atmosphere. Through our vision of Food With Integrity, Chipotle is seeking better food from using ingredients that are not only fresh, but that where possible are sustainably grown and naturally raised with respect for the animals, the land, and the farmers who produce the food. A similarly focused people culture, with an emphasis on identifying and empowering top performing employees, enables us to develop future leaders from within. Chipotle opened with a single restaurant in 1993 and currently operates more than 1,100 restaurants.