Opacity of ownership

Charles Cowling

George Crump. No, not that one, this one.

It’s the adjudication all we Midlanders have been waiting for: the Advertising Standards Authority ruling on an advertisement which, on 8 July 2011, ran as follows:

George Crump & Son Funeral Directors Est 1895 … Available day or night – Under the personal supervision of Michael J. Crump – Pre-Payment Plans – Monumental Masonry” … incorporating Crumps Florists.

You see that and you suppose what about the business? 

And you’d be plumb wrong, of course. Michael Crump sold out to the Midlands Co-op in 2007; it’s not his business, it’s theirs. But he’s a great local character, is Crumpy. He loves conducting funerals. He’s famous for his singing voice and he attends every funeral. Heaven knows how many Rugged Crosses he’s belted out over the years; he can’t get enough of them. So Midlands Co-op has not gone out of its way to kick him out and re-brand. If it had any brand confidence or conviction, of course, it would. It would have proclaimed UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT and the good people of Droitwich would have thought, ‘Crumpy was good, yes, but this is even better.’

Does it matter that this ad may have seduced people into supposing that Michael Crump’s business was still his own? 

In a word, no. Because even though people may have supposed that, that’s not what the ad said.  In the words of the ASA:

MCO said the ad did not state that George Crump and Son was an independent or family-run funeral business. They said buy tadalafil online india Michael Crump’s name was stated in the ad because bereaved families found it helpful to have the name of a person to ask for when they first made contact with the funeral home. They added that Michael Crump’s wife ran the florist outlet of the funeral home part-time.

We noted the complainant considered the overall impression of the ad was that George Crump & Son was family-owned and family-run, and that the ad was therefore misleading because the company had been owned by MCO since 2007, and Michael Crump was the only member of the family involved in the funeral director business.

We noted the ad did not make any specific claims that the company was family-owned or family-run, and we considered that that was not the overall implication of the ad. Rather, we considered that consumers were likely to infer from the ad that the Crump family were still involved in the business and that therefore the service would have certain family values. We noted we had seen evidence that Michael Crump was heavily involved in the funeral director business and that his wife worked for the associated florists, which meant it was likely that she would also be in personal contact with customers of the funeral business. We therefore considered the ad was not misleading.

Words. Slippery little sods, aren’t they? Even so, that the ASA should have concluded that the inference of the ad was not that this is an independent business is nothing short of astounding.

Full adjudication here


9 thoughts on “Opacity of ownership

  1. Charles Cowling

    I don’t have anything of note to add, except I was pleasantly surprised to see a name I recognise whilst reading this blog! Small world or just a very interconnected business? Either way, it was interesting to see.

    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling
    andrew plume

    Quokkagirl, hello

    I’ll tell you what they are afraid of………..and that’s local competition, pure and simple and if MCS are reading this, I propose that they should put me right etc etc, if the situation is anything other than what I am blogging here about

    When Mr M Crump owned the business, Crumps would have had 100% of the local market – they now have some up and coming strong independent opposition in the form of Powell’s and Dignity have also opened up ‘a greenfield operation’ there as well – I feel that this proves the/my point


    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling

    Ahhh, Mr Crump. I have worked for him on one occasion when a family requested me. Yes, he stands in on the service and sings….and sings…..and sings…. I never knew he had ‘gone over the wall’. No-one would ever guess. Neither, I bet, did my Californian relative who did a full blown do-it-yourself service for his young wife, including his own very ‘hung loose’ jazz band, easy going ad lib eulogies, break-through singing and in some cases, break-through hysterics. No wonder old Crumpy looked more bewildered than usual when he did that one. And anyone watching would say that Crumpy was an independent fd – not even a sniff of the CO-op about him which begs the question what are they afraid of(note the lower case in funeral director, Josh).

    Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling

    …and it all adds up to the observation (pertinent inedeed to celebrants particularly) that it is not literally the words that convey the truth of the underlying message so much as the intention.

    Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling
    David Holmes

    When I became involved in litigation on a similar matter, my barrister informed me that a company as large as coca-cola could claim to be ‘family run’ if two or more family members were involved in its day to day management. Weasel words to me – but having spent £6,000 to get that far, I walked away rather than face the cost of a trial.

    This ASA ruling is depressing because it means they and other groups will carry on getting away with creating an impression using very carefully selected words.

    Charles Cowling
  6. Charles Cowling
    Josh Slocum

    Heaven knows how many Rugged Crosses he’s belted out over the years; he can’t get enough of them.

    Charles, you make me laugh so hard!

    Charles Cowling
  7. Charles Cowling

    The adjudication, by limiting itself to a view about whether the presence of the last Crump (and his wife’s flowers) is a sufficient link with the firm’s independent past, seems to me to miss the point.

    The real issue is that association with the Crump family name is also about the sort of service you expect from an independant – continuity of service, the personal touch, local morgue facilities, embalming done on the premises, flexible viewing arrangements – all of the personal touches that differentiate the personal from the corporate.

    Surely there is still room to challenge the advert on the basis that, while the name and even family involvement remain, the intent to deceive rests in the implied provision of services that are local and individual rather than corporate and regionalised?
    rather than corporate.

    Charles Cowling
  8. Charles Cowling

    Depressingly close to the truth, Jonathan.

    Charles Cowling
  9. Charles Cowling

    I see “…under the personal supervision of…”, and what I immediately suppose about the business is that it’s Co-opted Funerals Limited. But then I’m an insider, a cynic, whereas most would not think anything of a funeral thingammywhatsisname being owned by a national conglomerate – it’s not about integrity or quality of service anyway, is it, it’s about getting us outta this dreadful fix quick and who cares who’s up to what behind the scenes as long as the front of house holds up.

    Charles Cowling

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