5 Years Later, ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ Remains Advertising’s Most Delightfully Horrible Creation

Michael Hart of mono picks his 3 favorite ads

Headshot of Tim Nudd

This fall will mark five years since McCann Melbourne unleashed “Dumb Ways to Die.” No PSA since then, with the exception of the Ad Council’s “Love Has No Labels,” has come close to matching the global appeal of the adorable blobs who famously meet their demise in various comically stupid ways—ways that, Metro Trains memorably suggested, were almost as dumb as losing one’s life by being unsafe near train tracks.

In our latest “Best Ads Ever” video, Michael Hart, founder and managing creative director of Minneapolis agency mono, includes “Dumb Ways to Die” among his three favorite ads of all time.

And he’s surely not alone. The viral juggernaut of a spot—with lyrics by McCann’s John Mescall, music by Ollie McGill from the band The Cat Empire, and performance by Emily Lubitz of Tinpan Orange—was viewed more than 30 million times in its first two weeks. The official YouTube view tally is now over 147 million.

“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?” Mescall told Adweek at the time. “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.”

McGill’s music, combined with the Gashlycrumb-Tinies-meets-Monty-Python lyrics, did the trick.

“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 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.”

He added: “Emily brought a great combination of innocence, playfulness and vocal integrity. She brings a level of vocal quality you don’t normally get on a video about cartoon death.”

Australian designer Julian Frost did the animation. “Julian was keen to contrast the extreme situations described in the lyrics with the simplest animation possible. Otherwise it would become just too much,” Mescall said. 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.”

Check out the video above for Hart’s other “Best Ads” picks, and see all the spots he chose in full below. And to see more “Best Ads Ever” videos, click here.

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