- After life services website Beyond win big at Drum Awards for series of ads deemed too risqué to run on the London Underground this summer
- Ads for wills and funerals that parody other consumer posters such as holidays, weddings, cars and medicines earn advertising industry approval
- TfL censorship actually led to more people seeing the ads, which then garnered huge international media and social media interest
A series of controversial adverts that caused a stir this summer when Transport for London (TfL) refused to show them on their trains has earned advertising industry approval after winning big at last night’s Drum Awards.
The censorship created a significant media storm, with the banned ads consequently featuring on major news platforms in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world – the likes of the BBC, Channel 4, The Sun, Daily Mail and even The Washington Post all covered the story.
And now, after life services comparison website Beyond, who devised the campaign to be deliberately risqué, has been celebrated at the prestigious Drum Awards, winning for Best Viral Campaign.
The campaign was rejected on the grounds it may cause offence, a departure from recent bans which have tended to be due to a clampdown on nudity.
Each of the four adverts was cheekily designed to draw comparison with other, more accepted consumer products.
Choosing a funeral director was likened to car shopping; Beyond’s free will writing service masqueraded as 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, found that the vast majority (76%) believed the ads should have been allowed to be displayed.
Ian Strang, co-founder of Beyond, comments:
“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.
“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.”