How To Reach Young Readers With Awesome Messaging - Guest Post By Cathryn Wellner

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My friend Cathryn Wellner has a wonderful blog called This Gives Me Hope where she is well on her way to post 1001 stories that give us hope. Today she posted a story that touched me on many different levels. The way the Melbourne Transit Authority gets their message across is a great example how we can touch our audiences so much better if we create engaging and unique content.

The video used has it all:

  • Addictive music
  • Great animation
  • Important message conveyed in a non-threatening way
  • humour

The following content was first published in Cathryn Wellner’s Blog on Jan 18th 2013

As a choice for suicide, throwing yourself in front of a train is pretty effective. It is also hard on train drivers. Australian newspaper The Age uncovered official statistics that claimed nearly every week someone dies on the state of Victoria’s tracks. However, when Mex Cooper spoke with an experienced driver, he told her he thinks the real tally is closer to one a day. Whether those deaths are intentional or accidental, drivers end up traumatized. Their stories are wrenching.

The Age took the rail system to task for the carnage. In an editorial entitled, “Rail suicides must not be consigned to silence”, they wrote:

It is a many-layered tragedy, enfolding those who choose to die in this way, the drivers and other rail workers affected by their choices, and the families of all these people. And the extent of the tragedy is only just beginning to be known in the wider community, in part because suicide is a topic that is still too little spoken about….

Victoria has the highest rail suicide rate in the nation. What might be done to reduce it is uncertain, but any action depends on an awareness of the problem. And fostering that awareness is impossible without discussing suicide more openly than has usually been the case.

Metro Trains turned to the international marketing powerhouse, McCann, who came up with a clever, youth-friendly idea. The company’s executive creative director, John Mescall told Australian Creative:

The aim of this campaign is to engage an audience that really doesn’t want to hear any kind of safety message, and we think dumb ways to die will.

“Dumb Ways to Die” lists all kinds of death-inviting behavior. For example, you can set fire to your hair, poke a stick at a grizzly bear or invite a psycho killer inside. The clever animated video waits until the last verse to work in dumb things people do around trains:

Stand on the edge of a train station platform

Drive around the boom gates at a level crossing

Run across the tracks between the platforms

They might not rhyme but they’re quite possibly

The dumbest ways to die

The campaign has been wildly popular. McCann‘s Web site says the video attracted 15 million views in the first week. Parodies and spinoffs are popping up all over the Web.

The campaign is reaching far behind the target audience of young Australians who, intentionally or accidentally, take risks around trains. Whether or not it achieves its goal of reducing train deaths, it is definitely reaching young people with a safety message.

(And, yes, I do know it’s a campaign for all of Victoria, but I’m writing from British Columbia – where Victoria is our capital city – so I figured picking an instantly recognizable city in Victoria would at least let people know right from the title that this campaign comes from Australia.)



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