McCann Australia boss: our other work has been overshadowed by Dumb Ways to Die

Dumb Ways to DieThe boss of the agency behind the award-winning Dumb Ways to Die viral has said that the campaign’s success would hold no sway with the jury at Spikes Asia this week.

Ben Lilley, CEO of McCann Australia, told Mumbrella that although Dumb Ways was heavily awarded at Cannes Lions and other awards shows, there was no guarantee that the campaign would dominate Spikes – even though the client has already been awarded advertiser of the year.

“We’ve learned from experience not to speculate which way awards juries might go. You never know,” he said.

“But if the other shows we’ve entered are anything to go by, we’re hopeful to pick up a few gongs.”

At the Cannes Lions in July, the cyber jury did now award Dumb Ways to Die the grand prix because it had dominated other categories, according to rumours at the festival.

Ben Lilley

Ben Lilley

“At Cannes, we heard speculation that the campaign had been marked down because of its success in other categories. But that didn’t affect us one way or the other. We were ecstatic with the recognition we received in other categories,” Lilley said.

The effectiveness of Dumb Ways to Die has been called into question in Australia, despite the public safety video being viewed more than 55m times on YouTube and incidences of dangerous behaviour at Melbourne trains stations falling since the campaign launched.

“At the Australian Effies last week, we had five finalists for Dumb Ways to Die and picked up three trophies. So the campaign is being recognised, but we do continue to face some scepticism around its effectiveness and questions about whether it’s a campaign that has greater emphasis on creativity rather than results.”

“Australia is well known for the tall poppy syndrome, where there is a minority of haters. But we are more concerned with what our clients and prospective clients think of our work,” Lilley said.

Dumb Ways to Die cost under half a million Australia dollars ($US462m) to produce.

Lilley added that the best campaign from McCann this year was not Dumb Ways to Die.

“Over the last 12 months, our work has been overshadowed by Dumb ways to Die. What we really want to see is broad recognition for the creative turnaround we’ve achieved over the last 18 months at McCann Australia. We don’t want to be known for one blockbuster campaign.”

McCann Australia’s Impossible Orchestra campaign for CareAware was a superior campaign, Lilley said.

McCann was one of Australia’s low achievers until it merged with local Melbourne agency Smart in a reverse takeover two years ago. Lilley was boss of Smart at the time and drove the merger negotiations.


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