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Transportation safety videos go viral

Published November 15, 2013 at 7:14 am

The struggle to promote good behavior on trains and other modes of public transportation can seem tough: how do you tell people to act more responsible without sounding like you’re lecturing them? The elusive prize of the “viral video” has certainly made entertaining online video content worth pursuing for all sorts of campaigns.

Let’s examine two similarly themed video-based transit marketing initiatives that are striving hard to inject humor and a memorable tune into an area of life that many people may dread.

You Can Bounce If You Want To

In Boston, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority has produced an extravagant video that packs safety instructions into rap lyrics while singers croon the name of the campaign: “The Safety Bounce.”

While this is certainly an eye-catching way to bring attention to the subject, the presentation might not be to everyone’s musical taste. Nevertheless, the makers of the video were sure to include multiple real Boston locations as well as transit employees, people of different ages, and, apparently, some real travelers that have been caught in the background.

There’s also a nod to a previous local mascot in the video: Charlie, the famous “man who never returned” featured in a well-known folk song about the local subway, jamming alongside a group of dancers.

The Cute Approach

In contrast, one can look at another campaign addressing driver safety in Melbourne, Australia, that takes a more morbid (but still upbeat) turn. The animated music video “Dumb Ways to Die” has rocketed to success through its use of a catchy song and colorful graphics that have led to millions of views, thousands of sales and even an accompanying iPad application game.

But while this video is clearly re-watchable and appealing, it risks overshadowing its message of train safety by squeezing in only a few lines of legitimate metro-related advice toward the end of the song. This may have made it more “accessible” to viewers around the world, but doesn’t it also lose something of its original purpose, even with a disclaimer that appears at the end?

Instead, most of it is a funny catalog of, indeed, “dumb ways to die” that are very witty but don’t really have that much to do with the ostensible point of the campaign, which is awareness of train safety.

Although that’s a valid concern for the MBTA video as well, at least that one does contain more usable information in its lyrics, even if it can be hard to successfully parse out.

Walking that Fine Line

The point is, although taking a bold approach to pursuing a new type of brand message is admirable, it can all get lost in the shuffle if there isn’t a clear driving message. And in both cases, the video was only part of a larger marketing push that encouraged others to stay engaged with this new message.

Perhaps it’s better to go big than not try anything new: at the very least, these campaigns have left people dancing. All the same, careful marketing choices should be made when an opportunity for a new brand message presents itself so as to stay both creative and on-point.

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