Marketing lessons from the Dumb Ways to Die campaign cleaning up at Cannes

Australian advertisers have smashed their awards record at this year’s Cannes advertising festival, already winning 87 Lions with three days to go.

Last year Australians brought home a total of 59 Lions from the prestigious international festival, and having already well exceeded this total the most decorated campaign for 2013 has been McCann’s Dumb Ways to Die, created for Metro Melbourne.

The popular campaign has been well-received by international audiences, as well as Melbourne commuters, with the video element of the campaign receiving in excess of 50 million YouTube views.

The advertisement features animated characters which come to a series of unfortunate “dumb” deaths, accompanied by a catchy song, before concluding with the “dumbest” of deaths: standing on the edge of a train station platform, driving around the boom gates of a level crossing or running across train tracks between platforms.

The advertisement is the way of the future for the advertising industry, as marketing agency Taboo’s account director, Simon Banhaalen, told SmartCompany.

He says the advertising industry is starting to embrace branded content and the most successful campaigns are fully integrated across multiple platforms.

“The way they’ve used an artist, someone who may or may not be in the advertising field, to create these characters, it’s no longer advertising, the campaign is seen as entertainment.

Branded content typically blurs the lines between advertising and entertainment and this is what Banhaalen says Dumb Ways to Die achieved.

“It’s what people want to watch, it’s not the tried and tested stuff, it’s creating a story people want to listen to. People won’t share it unless they feel like they’re making themselves look good in the process,” he says.

At the awards, Dumb Ways to Die secured six cyber Lions (five gold and one silver), which recognises excellence in digital communications, and it also secured a radio Lion.

“Clients are not just looking for a certain channel anymore; they need one to go across multiple channels.

“Not just radio or press, but it also needs to be present on social media and I’ve even seen this campaign in gaming,” Banhaalen says.

“Good agencies, when they’ve found a good idea, they find many ways to execute it. Once they saw it was getting traction, McCann has gone back to the client and worked out where else the campaign could lead.”

As well as the 50 million YouTube views, within 24 hours of its launch the Dumb Ways to Die song had reached the top ten on the iTunes chart and 48 hours later it made number six on the iTunes singer/songwriter global chart.

It’s also spawned a number of parodies, including one with gaming characters such as Super Mario and has attracted a global audience.

Other Australian campaigns which have done well at this year’s awards include Leo Burnett Sydney’s Small World Machines campaign for Coca Cola, Clemenger BBDO Sydney’s rainbow campaign for Skittles and Droga5 Sydney took home six Lions in the design category for its Every Journey campaign.

With three days to go, Banhaalen says Australian campaigns to watch are the Clemenger BBDO Melbourne beer chase campaign for Carlton Draft and the Devondale milk campaign about soy milk by McCann Melbourne.

Banhaalen says while Australian advertisers are getting a lot of praise, there is room for improvement when it comes to mobile advertising.

“While we’ve also had two nominations in the mobile category, overall this is territory we could probably be better in,” he says.

SmartCompany contacted McCann Melbourne, but no comment was available prior to publication.

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