Dumb ways to die – novel – but useless

The ‘Dumb ways to die’ is a big hit in the advertising scene winning awards at Cannes.

Here are the statistics.  Where do you think the incredible advertising campaign started?  The answer is quarter 4, 2012.  There has been no change.

Dumb ways to die might be popular but it won’t work because its base theory is wrong.

Latest statistics here for quarter 2, 2013.

dumb ways to prevent accidents* Near misses at level crossings in Victoria, Australia by quarter (Transport Safety Victoria 2013)

About John Culvenor

Hi, Thank you for taking a look at this blog. I work in engineering, ergonomics, creativity, design, training, etc. Often this is about helping solve legal puzzles through accident analysis. Sometimes it is about thinking up better designs for equipment, workplaces, and systems. This blog is about good design and bad design, accident analysis and how it can be done better, and how we can make a better, safer world by design!
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26 Responses to Dumb ways to die – novel – but useless

  1. Would it be expected to work in such a short space of time? Probably not, behaviour change doesn’t work like that…it takes concerted effort over time. Not that this campaign will deliver that. Doesn’t matter though, it made a few ad creatives very successful and a govt department feel like they existed for a purpose.

    Re your other point about whether behaviour change is the solution (vs system change), you’d surely have to analyse the near misses and identify cause…system failure or individual behaviour.

    All of this with the caveat that the numbers are extremely small, so stats should be approached with caution.

  2. Thank you for the contribution.

  3. Rodger Lentz says:

    I think to measure success, you have to measure what the change was in e target audience. In this case, teens. I also agree, education and behaviors change takes time.

  4. Hi Rodger, Thank for making a contribution. Fair point, perhaps the campaign is marketed at only a segment of the user group, so only the rates for that segment should be measured (not sure if that is available). However you would wonder about how worthwhile the campaign can be if it only targets a small proportion. This campaign is supposed to be the best in the world, and yet does not seem to work very much or at all across the board, so what about lesser campaigns?

  5. Pingback: Dumb Ways To Die and A Strange Sense of Success - Health and Safety Risk

  6. Emily Jane says:

    This is a great article John. I totally hate this misconceived and useless campaign. It trivialises and glorifies risky behaviour and serious injuries. It was heavily criticised by Susie Obrien in the Herald Sun as being more about advertisers’ ego than about safety:

    I am not surprised the injury rates have not come down. Susie in the article above predicted as much too!

  7. Hi Emily, [Looks like the link requires a subscription]

    Yes, advertisers are happy with novelty and popularity. It’s not really their fault though. The problem lies with the clients who asked for such a campaign.

    The next quarter figures are out. Still no change.

  8. Emily Jane says:

    Advertisers have a duty to make campaigns that are effective and socially responsible. I dont trust advertising companies one bit. I note this campaign was banned in Russia as it promoted and belittled self harm and serious injuries.

  9. Hi Emily Jane, Yes, agreed. So not only does it not achieve its aim but also has the potential for distress and perhaps worse in other ways.

  10. Emily Jane says:

    yes I agree John. This is a very good page showing these statistics.

  11. Michael says:

    I don’t know if any of you guys live in Victoria, to be honest one of the reasons that I think maybe this campaign didn’t work is because Victorian rail safety in general sucks. Lots of level crossings especially in metropolitan areas and even the design of level crossings in rural areas isn’t that great.

    • Yes Michael. In Sydney there are very few (if any) level crossings. The design in rural areas is often a problem for instance with angled approaches and poor sight distances. Yet the cartoon tells us that it is the users fault.

      • Michael says:

        Well I would classify driving around the boom gates because you want to beat the train as the users fault. I agree that a lot of the level crossings in Victoria are poorly designed, but there has to be some point whereby peoples common sense comes into play.

  12. Emily Jane says:

    I dont agree. This campaign has cost a lot of taxpayers money and as a train traveller I always have the hideous cartoons that make up this “campaign” plastered everywhere and in your face all the time. This campaign is taking the piss out of, and trivialising, serious injuries. Its all about advertisers ego as Susie Obriens notes in her fine article.

    • It is a waste of money (perhaps not taxpayers money as it is by Metro trains) but it attempts to the copy the public money the Transport Accident Commission spend on behavioral programs. So far they have spent $719 million dollars. This could have been used better. E.g. removing railway/road crossings.

  13. Emily Jane says:

    Where did you get the figure of $719 million? I strongly suspect taxpayer money is being used for the outlandish “dumb ways to die” ads.

  14. Hi Emily,

    The $719 million figure came from TAC under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Not sure if the taxpayer contributed to the “dumb ways” campaign but the advertising agency writes that Metro trains (a consortium of businesses) was the client http://mccann.com/project/dumb-ways-to-die/

  15. Emily Jane says:

    This tragic death of a young boy shows today the utterly misconceived and offensive ” Dumb Ways to Die” campaign is useless and counterproductive. It should be rescinded immediately as it trivialises and makes fun of serious injuries!


    • Michael says:

      To be honest Emily I can buy the whole doesn’t work for the target group argument, its not just about what users do, the govt needs to improve argument. But the whole trivialises and glorifies serious injuries argument is a step beyond me.

  16. Agreed. It is an example of many misguided attempts to appear to do something about accident prevention. But the same things happen.

  17. Rob says:

    Does this poke fun at suicide? Yes. Humour pokes fun at a lot of serious things.

    Why poke fun? To engage with young people, a group who are difficult to impress with more worthy messages.

    Is this effective? Sooo difficult to work out because there are so many other factors at play. We can argue about this until the bottom of my browser’s ability to scroll.

    Was the Metro network right to try this approach? Yes, I think so. It won’t appeal to everyone, but even the debate about whether it’s right or not brings the issues to the fore. And if safety is not in people’s minds when they’re around trains then they will be less safe.

    Does this make the Metro system inherently unsafe, like a poorly-designed road layout? Well, yes, of course, because people are dying. But the only way to make the Metro entirely safe would be to stop running trains. You can make a similar argument for closing roads and airports as well, but doing any of these will cripple our modern way of life. And it’s our modern way of life that’s extended life expectancy. There’s an irony there.

    I feel this was worth trying. I don’t think the statistics prove anyone’s case. And whatever the campaign’s effect, it’s true that another will be required before too long.

    And $719 million for the campaign? Utter tosh. You don’t spend that kind of money on a feature film; a short animation like this will be pocket money by comparison.


  18. Hi Rob, Regarding your misgivings about the $719m (“tosh”). That’s just a misunderstanding. I never intended to suggest that was the cost of the Metro program. The Metro scheme, I suggested, was an attempt to copy the TAC behavioral programs and I noted its cost. They have spent $719 million dollars on that program – at least according to TAC – as I have it from them under FoI.

  19. Pingback: ‘Dumb ways to die’ definitely did not work – 2013 statistics | safedesign

  20. Pingback: More Dumb Ways to Suicide - SafetyRisk dot net

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