My Word Is Born, My Word Is Born

Earlier this year Dumb Ways To Die, a clever campaign by McCann Melbourne for the local road safety organisation, swept the board at Cannes, becoming the most awarded ever campaign. Whilst I think it’s a great piece of work (and don’t want to put it down in any way), I’m not sure it’s that good.

As in better than any piece of marketing of the last 60 years.

That would probably be something like this*, not a 21st Century update of the original Charley Says.

Anyway, when I saw this following piece of work it got me thinking about Dumb Ways To Die as I think that this is potentially better (though that will depend on the results) and could be a big winner at Cannes next year. I certainly think it’s a more impressive piece of work in terms of the actual ‘creative’. It also happens to be by the same people.

Essentially, in order to promote the new copy of a hard-copy dictionary (a pretty thankless task I think you’d agree), they came up with the idea of creating a new word and getting it adopted, thereby highlighting the need for organisations that monitor, catalogue and explain the evolution of language. Organisations like dictionary publishers, such as the client, Macquarie Dictionaries.

Whilst they will have to wait for the sales figures to come in to judge the true success, I think that getting 218,000 search results around a word that didn’t exist before the campaign started is pretty impressive. There are also over 1,400 results which mention phubbing and the client, though it’s hard to tell how many of those will have any real reach. I guess the ultimate sign of success would be if a competitor dictionary ended up listing phubbing too. It would certainly be an improvement from twerking.

Anyway, it’s a lovely piece of work and, again, highlights how there’s no such thing as good digital marketing, just good marketing. It’s also as much of an excuse as I need to post a Run DMC track.



  1. Nice article Ciaran. I think you might be overlooking one minor factor though. Phubbing, while very clever, does not have the noble ambition of stopping kids killing themselves on railway tracks. For this reason, and this reason alone, I don’t believe that Phubbing will clean up next year. That said, it is very good marketing.

    • Thanks Jo. And you’re right – I even thought about mentioning the fact that DWTD ticked the current buzzword bingo box of causal marketing. But personally I don’t think that the virtue of the client should have any bearing on how we judge the work. But that’s probably just me being naive. Or does it make me cynical? I’m not even sure any more!

  2. Love the commentary Ciaran. Agree that this was a brilliant campaign that should be getting a lot more attention, but I’ve always been disappointed that a watermark will generally trump true influence when it comes to awards. Changing the course of human language? No big deal if no-one knows it’s supposed to sell a dictionary.

    Also, here’s the Spotify embed code for the Run DMC track, so you can replace the non-licensed YT link that doesn’t get the artist paid with something that does 🙂

    • Thanks Gary! I think WordPress must have stripped out your link, but I’ve put it in now anyway. YouTube should really organise a system so that music rights owner can claim advertising on pirated copies, as they do for TV shows.

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