Transport for London (TfL) has banned a series of advertisements by funeral comparison website Beyond as part of its campaign to get Britain talking about death.
The original campaign was rejected by the government office’s advertising partner, the Committee of Adverting Practice (CAP), who advised they were likely to cause offence.
Each of the four adverts was designed to draw comparison with other, more accepted consumer products. For example, one advert compared choosing a funeral director to car shopping, while another likened Beyond’s free will writing service as a cough remedy advert. Another advert encouraged viewers to plan for their funeral in the same way as they might their wedding day and another compared getting a good deal on a cremation with a package holiday.
However, none of the ads has been allowed to run on the London Underground, despite there being no precedent of similar images being censored – in part because no such campaign has been devised before.
Beyond wants to change the national conversation surrounding post-life plans to reflect a general move away from the ‘traditional’, austere funerals and towards bespoke celebrations of life. The company also wants to alert consumers to the spiralling costs of burial and cremation.
Ian Strang, co-founder of Beyond, said: “It is hugely disappointing not to have been allowed to run our adverts. In the UK we are not comfortable talking about or engaging with death and it’s not healthy, and something we want to meet head on. Our reluctance to talk about death is the reason funeral costs continue to spiral and why you pay far too much for writing a will or settling an estate. That’s what we seek to change.
“The response to our ads, where we have been able to show them, has been really positive. People welcome the refreshing opportunity to open up more about death, so it’s ridiculous that a small cabal of people in a room should be killing the conversation.”
He added: “TfL are happy to show adverts for loan sharks with cripplingly exploitative APRs, encouraging you to get yourself into debt, but our campaign, which could save you a fortune, is somehow deemed more offensive.
“Even more astoundingly, this comes at a time when the CMA is investigating funeral costs, trying to bring transparency to the market – recognition that it has never been more important to be engaging in conversation about death, not shutting it down.
“Our ads were designed to challenge people’s reluctance to talk about death and we hope they may even raise a smile. TfL has had a sense of humour failure but that doesn’t mean anyone else has to.”
CAP has since advised Beyond to rework the adverts, which can now be seen on the Underground trains.
A spokesperson for TfL said: “Running advertising that is seen by millions of Londoners every day is a serious responsibility and our advertising partner was advised by the Committee of Advertising Practice that the original posters proposed by Beyond were likely to cause serious and widespread offence. Our partner then worked with the brand to come up with a more acceptable campaign, which is now running on our network.”