Australia’s fastest-spreading viral video, “Dumb Ways to Die”, has taken on a life of its own, inspiring more than 65 cover versions, 85 parodies, 30 million views in 2 weeks and 170 re-posts on YouTube

The original clip, made to promote safety on Melbourne Metro Trains, has definitely taken on a life of its own, but it seems that that was exactly the point of it as well. McCann Worldgroup Australia, said its “conservative” estimate was that the campaign had generated $50 million in “global-earned media value” so far, in addition to more than 700 press hits. “It’s entered popular culture,” said John Mescall, executive creative director of McCann Worldgroup Australia. “A lot of paid advertising campaigns die the moment you stop spending money, whereas this is going to be in people’s playlists for quite a while now,” he said, adding TV networks had to re-think their controlled approach.

Mescall wrote the lyrics of the original song and brought in Ollie McGill, the keyboardist from Cat Empire, to write the music, as well as a freelancer Julian Frost to complete the animation. Melbourne-based Emily Lubitz of Tinpan Orange did the singing.

The objective was to raise awareness about rail safety by not only engaging young people through the song but also getting them talking about rail safety. Melbourne Metro Trams achieved this with flying colours.

Other ingredients for viral success include making it non-specific to Australia (for example, by deliberately including grizzly bears and piranha), coming up with a “ridiculously catchy tune”, not preaching, and utilising web tools such as Tumblr, Pinterest and Reddit to spread the word.

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