Death and dumb

Charles No Comments

Over in Austria an undertaker, urged by his PR people, parks his hearse at a blackspot in order to deter sloppy driving. The hearse bears the gloating message: ‘We’re always ready for you.’ The object? Driver sees it, thinks ‘That’s jolly clever,’ slows down and uses that undertaker next time she needs one. Win-win. Read the story in our own dear Daily Mail here.

Over in the US, advertising man Dan Katz damns the initiative: ‘Whenever humor is chosen as an attention-getter, the question always has to be: is it directly relevant to the selling message, or just a gimmick … I’d argue that it falls short of the real goal, which is to strongly, indelibly link a meaningful benefit (not just death) to the advertiser’s brand … Creepy for its own sale doesn’t sell, even if it does get top-of-mind awareness. The basics of marketing still apply, including the requirement of having a compelling reason why someone should consider you over your competition.

To position death as macabre and avoidable is dumb. To use a hearse to strike terror is dumb. That’s so obvious it needs no elaboration. We’re too frightened of death as it is.

So if you were an undertaker in the UK (perhaps you are?), would you accede to the wishes of a dead person aged just 85 and display this message on your hearse: “Smoking killed me – please give up!“?

Personal afterthought: I never see a dead person without feeling slightly envious. I often think of that line from Shakespeare: “After life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well.”

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