Sydney - A catchy tune, some cute animated figures and a giggle at blood on the train tracks has delivered almost 12 million YouTube hits for an Australian passenger safety message called Dumb Ways to Die.

“It's distracting. It's wonderful. We're thrilled. It's been a huge hit for us,” Melbourne's Metro Trains spokeswoman Leah Waymark said Wednesday. “Getting young people thinking perhaps thinking twice before they do something dumb, that's a great outcome.”

John Mescall, creative director at advertising agency McCann Worldgroup's Melbourne office, said the key to producing the nation's fastest-trending internet hit ever was sneaking up on those the safety message was intended to reach.

“If it looks and smells and tastes like an ad, it won't get shared,” he said. “You need a good title. Dumb Ways to Die! Who wouldn't click on that? If we'd called it How to Behave Around Trains, you'd be looking at just 100,000 shares.”

Waymark, who commissioned the piece, said humour was the way to go because “young people often see themselves as being indestructible so shock images of body bags don't work.”

Mescall put the rip-roaring success down to breaking the taboo and being funny about death.

“I think a part of us needs to do that,” he said. “It's like laughing at the thing that's hiding in the corner that's going to get us all in the end.” - Sapa-dpa