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Gordon Young
Editor-in-chief at The Drum

TfL bans satirical funeral ads on the grounds of offence

Beyond's ads are running elsewhere in London

Beyond, the recently rebranded funeral business, has hit out at Transport for London (TfL) after the network rejected its tongue-in-cheek campaign promoting low-cost cremation services, will writing and burial plans.

The creative was designed to spoof ads for products more commonly advertised on the TfL network, such as holidays, medicines and wedding dresses. ‘Don’t get RIP’d off’ features a second-hand car salesman flogging coffins rather than automobiles, for instance.

However, TfL’s advertising partner, Exterion, rejected the four posters after consultation with the Committee of Advertising Practice (Cap).

A spokesperson for the transport body 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.”

Beyond then submitted a further four posters that were subsequently accepted. More in tone with the brand, the posters’ frank approach to the business of death has still raised eyebrows around the capital.

Ian Strang, co-founder of Beyond, has hit back at Exterion’s decision. In a statement, he 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.

“This comes at a time when the CMA [Competition and Markets Authority] 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.”

Beyond stated that Someone, the agency behind its rebrand, declined to work on the humorous concepts. Creative agency Kemosabe produced the final posters.

The original, satirical creative was accepted by other media providers, including Outdoor Plus, and is currently running around London on electronic boards. Beyond stated that no complaints have been lodged as of yet.

“The response to our ads, where we have been able to show them, has been really positive,” added Strang. “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.”

TfL stated that all advertising campaigns running on its estate need to comply with ‘wider national advertising policies’ as well as its own guidelines. The network’s own code states an ad will not run if ‘it is likely to cause widespread or serious offence to reasonable members of the public on account of the product or service being advertised, the content or design of the advertisement, or by way of implication’.

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