Viral Videos: Two PSAs That Nailed It

They're great when we come across them. I'm talking about those rare commercials that break through the din and actually get our attention in a positive way. While we're busy barely tolerating all the rest of the marketing we're exposed to, these ads are different. They are so good we actually enjoy being advertised at. Here are two examples: 

“Dumb Ways to Die" was put out by Melbourne, Australia's Metro trains, which saw a 21% decrease in train incidents after the release of this video.

When I first saw "Tea and Consent," from the Thames Valley (England) Police, I laughed through the whole thing and then watched it a few more times and shared it. Apparently, many other people did, too, because it's had over 600,000 views in the last five years.

But why are these videos effective? What’s different about them that makes people want to watch and share them instead of impatiently wait for them to be over? and how do they get their points across so clearly?

I've noticed five things that are different about these two videos:

  1. Humor. More about humor in a later post.
  2. Clear message. "Tea and Consent" really cuts through the typical excuses to show how simple the question of consent really is. In "Dumb Ways to Die," the last verse gets the viewer's attention by breaking from the rhythm and rhyme pattern of the rest of the song.
  3. Repetition. The comedy in these videos allows their writers to repeat the lesson over and over without making it feel stale. 
  4. All the visual and audio elements are coordinated to work together and reinforce the goals of the video. The cute cartoons, the catchy tune in "Dumb" and the explanatory "dry British humor" tone in "Tea" all contribute, too.
  5. Both videos have clear takeaways. We know they want us to stay off the tracks, and we understand what consent is, because these ads just don't leave room for doubt. 
But maybe the biggest lesson I can learn from watching these two PSAs is that quality counts. Each one is only three minutes long, but it's obvious that both projects are the result of a lot of planning and coordination, and that nothing was left to chance.

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