Censored to Celebrated: Funeral Ads Banned by TFL Win Big at Prestigious Awards 0

  • 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.”

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Left in its Wake: Cost of Dying Rising Twice as Fast as Cost of Living 0

  • Burial costs up 20% nationwide in just three years
  • Cremation fees see 17.6% increase over same period
  • Prices of other goods have only risen 7.67% in that time

The spiralling cost of dying is rising twice as fast as the cost of living, funeral services comparison site Beyond reveals today, as funeral prices surge ahead of inflation.

While the cost of living has increased by a cumulative 7.67% since 2015, the average price of burials has risen by 19.9% – almost three times as much. The national average price of a burial plot is now an eye-watering £1,838.

Cost of dying soared in the last years

It is a similar story in the cremation market, where fees are up by 17.6% over the past three years. With cremations now accounting for close to 80% of all funerals in the UK, and with close to half a million deaths each year, this is big business. The average price for a cremation is now £784, with some crematoriums charging as much as £1,070.

How average funeral prices have continued to rise:

2015 2016 2017 2018 Total % increase
Crematoriums £667 £713 £751 £784 17.54%
Cemeteries £1,533 £1,631 £1,740 £1,838 19.90%

 

It has never been more expensive to die, with funerals commonly now reaching £5,000 or more once all additional costs such as cars, coffins and admin fees are included. Beyond’s research raises concerns that a lack of competition is driving prices higher.

Private funeral services firm Dignity run 19 of the 20 most expensive crematoriums in the country, with a direct correlation between an absence of competition and the ability to impose higher prices on grieving relatives with no other options.

Unsurprisingly, London is home to the UK’s most expensive cemeteries with land prices in the capital at a premium for both property and burials. However, it is Wales and the South West that have seen the sharpest hikes in the last 12 months, each with 12% increases for average burial prices in just a year.

James Dunn, co-founder of Beyond, comments:

“The numbers of people dying each year is fairly predictable to it’s staggering to see the cost of dying race ahead of the cost of living by such a margin.

“Funeral prices in this country are not something that we particularly enjoy talking about and that means awareness of the relative value presented by providers is low.

“Providers are going unchallenged and consumers are not being well-served by the market, which lacks a great deal of competition. The Government has to get a grip on this escalating costs.”

Coffin Up: Crematoriums Forcing 37% Price Hikes on Bereaved in Monopoly Shake Down 0

  • Lack of competition in certain areas allows providers to charge grieving families far more than national average
  • Crematoriums charge more the further they are from their nearest rival on average
  • Big savings on offer in densely populated areas but those in remote regions most vulnerable to higher prices

Grieving relatives are being burned by cremation costs that are 36.5% above the national average in areas where there is no competition, funeral services comparison site Beyond reveals today.

The average national cremation price has now risen to £784 but some crematoriums are charging up to £300 more than that.

The UK’s ten most expensive are all charging £1,070 and Beyond says it is no coincidence that they are on average 14.4 miles from their nearest rival, creating a monopoly as families balk at travelling long distances to lay their loved ones to rest.

The research comes after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) last week announced a review into the spiralling costs of funerals.

A clear nationwide trend reveals how proximity of competition keeps prices lower while distance increases the average cremation costs considerably.

Beyond’s study shows the tipping point for the crematorium monopoly effect is 7.5 miles. If a crematorium is further than 7.5 miles away from its nearest competitor, the average price it charges rises significantly.

The average price at a crematorium less than 7.5 miles from its nearest competitor is £757 which rises to £810 for those further than 7.5 miles away and £830 for those beyond 15 miles.

Cremations now account for close to 80% of all funerals, making it big business for the nation’s crematoriums. The CMA will seek to ensure that consumers are not being exploited, particularly at such a vulnerable and emotional time.

Of the 20 priciest crematoriums in the country, all but one (Parkgrove) are owned by private funeral services firm Dignity, while only one (Beckenham) sits within the 7.5 mile radius, showing how distance from competition can add a significant premium to cremation prices.

 

UK’s most expensive crematoriums

Crematorium Distance to nearest crematorium (miles) Price of cremation
Moray 47 £1,070
Surrey & Sussex (Crawley) 18 £1,070
Dundee 16 £1,070
Parkgrove (Friockheim) 16 £1,070
The Counties (Northampton) 10.5 £1,070
Heart of England (Nuneaton) 9.5 £1,070
Chichester 9 £1,070
Oxford 8 £1,070
Randalls Park (Leatherhead) 7.5 £1,070
Beckenham 2.5 £1,070
Earlham 18 £1,060
Norwich 13 £1,060
Lancaster & Morecambe 18.5 £1,055
Loughborough 10 £1,035
Basingstoke 12 £1,025
Glynn Valley 23.5 £999
Hawkinge 8.5 £999
Charnock Richard (Chorley) 8 £999
Exeter & Devon 4.5 £999
East Lancashire (Bury) 3.5 £999

London, the most densely populated part of the country, reinforces the trend, with a greater amount of competition forcing cremation prices down in the capital. South West Middlesex Crematorium in Feltham, for example, has the lowest charges of anywhere in the UK at £515, and is within five miles of its nearest competitor.

Beyond says that there are exceptions to the trend but these only demonstrate that some prices are being artificially inflated, because not all crematoriums feel the need to take advantage of an effective monopoly by increasing prices well above the national average.

Aberdeen’s crematorium, for instance, is more than 42 miles from a rival – the fourth biggest distance in the country – yet it only charges £693 per cremation, 12% below the national average of £784.

The crematorium monopoly is not unique to the private sector. Inverness is the most remote crematorium in the country, 51 miles away from any other, and charges £904 – the fifth most of any public provider.

The average price of the top five public crematoriums is £927 while the average distance from a competitor is 24 miles – showing that councils are not immune from cashing in on their advantage either.

 

UK’s most expensive public crematoriums

Crematorium Distance to nearest crematorium (miles) Price of cremation
Thorncliffe (Barrow-in-Furness) 20 £959
Crownhill (Milton Keynes) 13 £931
Distington Hall (Workington) 29 £924
Haycombe (Bath) 8 £915
Inverness 51 £904

 

James Dunn, co-founder of Beyond, comments:

“For far too long, not enough has been done about spiralling cremation costs. Mourners are being exploited and it’s fantastic news that the CMA has launched its probe into this sector.

“In everyday life it can pay to shop around for a better deal. In death, however, it’s not always possible to go elsewhere and consumers need to be protected when providers can essentially charge what they like.

“Prices should not be allowed to spiral out of control in areas where there is no competition. No provider should be able to cash in on grief in this way.”