Why Co-Op Buried Ad Taboo

Article excerpt

As the Co-op prepares to launch the UK's first major advertising campaign for a funeral business, Julian Lee looks at the sudden surge of marketing activity in this sensitive area

Death is an emotive issue and something most people don't want to talk or think about. It's also a [pounds]900m-a-year business.

Last week, the Co-op revealed plans to launch a national press campaign. Colour posters posing the question 'Are you prepared for life after death?' will appear in selected magazines next month.

A national TV and poster campaign, in the pipeline for next year, will undoubtedly break the long-standing taboo about advertising funerals. It will also announce that the market is about to become far more competitive.

American firm Service Corporation International (SCI) is making inroads into the pre-paid funerals market and is likely to attract a large proportion of the seven million people expected to make plans for their own funerals over the next ten years.

Fighting back

The aggressive marketing of the likes of SCI - Lowe Direct was appointed to handle its [pounds]4m direct account earlier this year - and even organisations such as Age Concern, has forced the nation's second largest undertaker, Co-operative Funeral Services, to give the green light to an ad campaign.

Sales and marketing manager Ben Jason says extensive research was conducted with 4000 face-to-face interviews before he went ahead. Yet the time has come, he argues, to fight for market share.

"The first obvious thing they say about the funeral industry is that it is a caring and sensitive profession. But above all it is a retail business, and it's a tough business," he says.

The new press campaign will attempt to persuade people that by planning ahead for their own funeral they will not only save money but also prevent their family from suffering a great deal of stress after the death. …