A series of controversial adverts that were initially banned by Transport for London (TfL) has earned advertising industry approval after the ‘Best Viral Campaign’ title at the Drum Awards on 21 November.
The original campaign by funeral comparison website Beyond, who intended for the ads to be “deliberately risque”, was rejected by the government office’s advertising partner, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), who advised they were likely to cause offence.
Each of the four adverts was designed to draw comparison with other consumer products. Choosing a funeral director was likened to car shopping; Beyond’s free will writing service was compared with a cough remedy advert; one image 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.
None of the ads was 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. An online poll, to which thousands of people responded, 76 percent believed the ads should have been allowed to be displayed.
Ian Strang, co-founder of Beyond, said: “Following the controversy, we were overwhelmed by the support we received from the public and this award gives a further stamp of approval from the advertising industry to our campaign. As a bonus from this awareness, hundreds of people created their will online with us for free, raising several hundred thousand pounds for charity through legacy gifts.
“While we’re delighted with the exposure that the adverts have received, I am aware that not everyone agrees with our approach, and of those who do, not all of them have been exposed to the reasoning behind the adverts and what we are trying to achieve.”
He added: “When something is taboo, as with death, it creates an environment where bad actors can operate. And our fear of engaging on the subject – creating that shared code of silence – allows predators to rip us off. We pay too much for funerals, funeral plans and wills because we don’t feel able to shop around.
“Excitingly for consumers, the issue seems to be coming to a head since the CMA has been investigating the funeral industry since the summer, and will report its findings and recommendations within the next week.”