Thing of the Day: “Dumb Ways to Die” vs. Funny Ways to Fall Ill
On the subway a few days ago I was admiring the ads for Josh Kushner’s new health insurance startup, Oscar. In the subway posters, cute, colorful cartoon characters with various illnesses are depicted in kooky ways. A man with a fever has flames coming out of his head. A man with a rash resembles a cactus. I then saw a YouTube video Oscar made called “You Never Know,” which is similar to — but better than — the print ads. Colorful cartoon characters are again depicted with various illnesses, but this time the illnesses themselves are strange and amusing: one person is hugged too tightly by a bear. Another gets bitten on the ankle by a squirrel. Another eats a prickly cactus. Cute. Weird. Funny.
Little did I realize, the concept of this ad arguably originated at a different ad agency for a totally different client. Oscar’s ad agency DandA, as far as I can tell, “remixed” McCann’s award-winning video for Melbourne Metro Trains, “Dumb Ways to Die.”
“Dumb Ways to Die,” if you’re not aware, launched earlier this year. Like Oscar’s video, it’s a cute video with flat, colorful animation that shows slightly gruesome but funny depictions of death, created to promote safety around Melbourne’s commuter trains. The video has been viewed some 68 million times and has inspired numerous parodies. Kids in particular love it. I heard a pair singing it while walking down the street this weekend. It now has its own iPhone and iPad game.
Oscar is getting a lot of buzz anyway, what with its 20-something founder and its friendly, sophisticated approach to a topic that everyone is sick of worrying about. But with this ad campaign, Oscar really seems to be riding the coattails of “Dumb Ways”s success. Oscar’s video contains all of the ingredients of “Dumb Ways.” Its cute depictions of random, funny ways to wind up in the hospital is very similar to Melbourne Metro Trains’ cute depictions of random, funny ways to die.
As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And for Oscar, it may be a pretty lucrative form of flattery too. It’s always a bit troubling to find something really refreshing and inspiring only to find out that it isn’t that original of an idea. But the truth is I can’t really “unfeel” my positive feelings for Oscar now, despite knowing that their ad campaign isn’t entirely original. I think most humans just have innately warm feelings towards pretty colors and cute animals.
Here’s Melbourne Metro Trains’ “Dumb Ways to Die,” by McCann:
Here’s Oscar’s “You Never Know,” by DandA:
For more on the success story of “Dumb Ways to Die,” read this AdAge article published yesterday.
Thing of the Day: Solar Flares
The sun has been “erupting” (flaring) a lot over the past week or so. Maybe it has something to do with Mercury being in retrograde! No, fellow Susan Miller disciples, it has to do with the fact that the sun is at a “solar maximum” as it nears the end of an 11-year cycle. It’s been rather quiet as it’s approached that maximum, which was not expected, so scientists are happy that it’s finally putting on a show. Watch this two-minute video from NASA that shows the flares in action. As an added bonus, it’s set to minimal electronic music.
(Via the LA Times)
Thing of the Day: War of the Welles
War of the Welles is a new Halloween-appropriate documentary from Southern California Public Radio’s KPCC. I heard it last night on CBC Radio, and you can listen to it right here. It goes behind the scenes of “the most famous radio broadcast in history,” when Orson Welles terrified the world by performing a dramatic adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds on Halloween night in 1938.
The CBS broadcast, part of a radio drama anthology called The Mercury Theatre on the Air, began with fictional news bulletins about a Martian invasion. Listeners, as you may know, became pretty convinced that the country was actually being invaded by aliens from Mars. As Welles had said about radio in the past, it was hard (impossible) for radio broadcasters and performers to gauge an audience’s reaction (oh, how I wish we had that problem on the Internet). So they ran the entire broadcast not knowing that America was freaking out.
This documentary is as much about the broadcast itself as about the charismatic and difficult and overly talented Welles. As KPCC awesomely puts it, Welles was a “precocious 23-year-old man-child” at the time of the Worlds broadcast.
What the hell is “Thing of the Day”? It’s a new blog post series I will be attempting to publish daily.
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