A series of edgy funeral adverts that were set to be plastered on trains and tube stations in the London Underground have been banned by Transport for London (TFL) because it thought they would cause “serious and widespread offence”.
Beyond, the company behind the adverts, said the whole point of the campaign was to break the taboo around death, and insisted the images weren’t cruel or mocking people losing their lives. The four images used models in a range of different, everyday situations, rather than the more popular images of an elderly couple discussing their funeral plans.
One image about cremation mimicked a holiday advert and showed a couple of young beachgoers running into the ocean with coffins instead of surfboards. It promised the one-way trip was all inclusive, included roasting temperatures and could depart from anywhere.
Another showed a used-coffin salesman urging people not to get “r.i.p’d off” by comparing funeral directors, while another took aim at a wedding day, but instead encouraged women to look perfect for their own funeral.
The final advert looked almost like a commercial for cold or flu medication, but said anyone with a headache, sore throats or shivers should get started on writing their will.
Ian Strang, co-founder of Beyond appeared on BBC2 in the UK where he defended the adverts.
“They’re not being cruel, they’re not mean, they’re not mocking anyone,” he explained. “They’re not dealing with the very sensitive sides of death, but they are deliberately edgy.”
He said there was a long tradition of edgy campaigns being used to cut through difficult issues, saying the Beyond adverts were no different from domestic violence campaigns that ran in the United Kingdom during the recent World Cup. He said these adverts allow people to open up and start a conversation.
“It’s the same with death,” he added. “Death is one of those industries where there isn’t enough conversation about it. There’s a taboo around it.”
Strang added that companies are more likely to take advantage of people when they’re in a weakened state and said that while he acknowledges the images are edgy, it’s what’s needed to get people talking about death.
According to the BBC, the TFL’s advertising partner worked with Beyond to come up with more acceptable posters which are now running on the London transport network. Meanwhile, Beyond is encouraging people to share the original images in hopes that it will get more people talking about death.