A radio ad from Metro Trains' ‘Dumb ways to die’ campaign called ‘Set fire to your hair’, has won the 2013 Gold Siren award for best radio ad of the year.
The ad, written by John Mescall and Pat Baron from agency McCann in Melbourne, also won a Silver Siren for winning the single category and the campaign also won the campaign category, announced today at a breakfast in Sydney.
The campaign, which included three ads (the other two of which were 'Sell both your kidneys' and 'Eat a tube of superglue') aims to spread a rail safety message, using a catchy tune and black humour.
It gained worldwide viral momentum when it was launched in November last year. Within 24 hours of its release, the song was in the top 10 on the iTunes chart and a video released on YouTube was reportedly viewed 28 million times within two weeks.
According to Metro Trains, ‘Dumb ways to die’ contributed to a more than 30% reduction in "near-miss" accidents, in the three months between November 2012 and January this year.
Writer of the winning ad and executive director of McCann, John Mescall said: “We knew that people didn’t want to hear our message at all. It’s rail safety. Not only do young people not care about safety messages, but we know that they actively tune out these kinds of messages.
“So our idea was to embed our rail safety message into a song: a piece of content so desirable, that our audience would not only willingly listen to it, but if we put it on iTunes, maybe actually pay money to own it. I guess the inspiration was to make a radio ad that was nothing like a radio ad, but a lot more like the content on either side of the ads: the music.
“We tried to make a radio ad that was nothing like a traditional radio ad. It’s a song first and foremost with a subtle but unmistakable message embedded into it. The fact that a lot of radio stations around the world have chosen to play the 3 minute version of our ad for free, as part of their music programming, tells us that we may well have pulled it off.”
Chief executive of Commercial Radio Australia, Joan Warner said it was rare to win both the single and campaign categories at Sirens, which was a testament to the effectiveness and impact of the campaign.
“This campaign also highlights how well radio combines with other media, particularly the internet, to engage the audience and get a message across. It really exemplifies the strength of good radio advertising," she said.
The winning writers will receive airfares, accommodation and tickets to this year’s Cannes Advertising Festival, to be held next month. The client, Metro Trains Melbourne, also wins a trip to Cannes and the festival.
The 'Dumb ways to die' campaign also won the 2013 Siren Client Award, the best ad voted by a judging panel made up of clients, with the writers receiving a cash prize of $5000.
The Silver Siren winner for the craft category was an ad for anti-bullying organisations, including Bullying No Way, Project Rockit and Reach Out, called 'Earphone bully', produced by sound engineers, Ralph van Dijk and Michael Bates, from production studio, Eardrum in Sydney.
The national Siren Awards, now in their ninth year, are run by Commercial Radio Australia and are designed to recognise the best radio advertising in the country.
A winner is announced in three categories: single, campaign and craft, which receive Silver Sirens as well as an overall winner which receives the Gold Siren. The awards are judged by the Siren Council, comprised of creative directors and producers from leading advertising agencies and studios throughout Australia.