The Spot: Angels of Death

The story behind McCann Australia's adorably grim viral megahit about train safety

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.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.