The Deconstructed Brief

Humoring Death


Brand: Beyond
Agencies: SomeOne, Kemosabe


For a compulsory and involuntary life event, dying is expensive. 

Cremations in the UK cost, on average, £3,311 ($4,224.37), while burials run £4,257 ($5,431.34), according to the Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2017. For reference, the average cost in the United States is several thousand less for a cremation ($1,100) or a burial ($2,000). (Funerals, however, can run you a pretty penny.) UK company Beyond offers consumers an underutilized solution to costly options: funeral comparison services. 

How do you get consumers to first confront their mortality and then shop around for their own funeral?

One thought:

Let’s have a laugh about death.


Online and outdoor advertisements from Beyond take a humorous approach to one of humanity’s last taboos: death and dying. The campaign compares individuals’ last moments to mundane, everyday situations to prompt discussion and remove the stigma surrounding funerals. Sardonic copy compares cremation to vacation and wedding dress shopping to finding a casket. 

Londoners opposed the appearance of the campaign and referred to the advertisements as “shocking,” “vile,” “insensitive” and “tasteless” on social media. Transport for London, the organization that runs and regulates transport in the city, rejected the advertisements based on a recommendation from Exterion, its advertising partner, and the Committee of Advertising Practice. The regulators voiced concerns that the campaign did not comply with organizational policy or national advertising standards on the grounds that  it may cause “serious and widespread offense.”



Lessons to be learned:

  • Cheers to catharsis. — Consumers’ anxieties continue to rise. Americans' anxiety levels increased significantly (40%) in the past year, tipping the national 'anxiety score' over the halfway point on a 100-point scale — it's now sitting at 51. Concern about politics and the future tops lists of what has people worried, and many avoid the news — and some parts of social media — in favor of anxiety-free animal videos and memes. Beyond capitalizes on the societal need for a laugh and brings a sense of humor to one of our most serious issues.

    After all, it’s better to laugh than cry.

  • Humor facilitates accessibility. — Countless psychological studies suggest that humor serves as a social bonding mechanism. Humor creates a connection between consumers and brands by allowing them to act in “real” and relatable ways. The Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey polled more than 29,000 internet respondents in 58 countries to measure consumer sentiment on 19 forms of advertising formats. Forty-seven percent of global respondents agreed that humorous ads resonated most. Employing humor allowed Beyond to open the conversation surrounding death and remove the taboo pigeonholing it as forbidden.

  • Good impressions and bad impressions are not equal. — Earned impressions serve as a leading metric for online marketing; however, base impressions do not take into account positive or negative impact of the action. Great for marketing metrics; however, how many of these impressions served as a positive conversation with consumers and built on the brand’s equity in a constructive fashion?  

    The verdict remains out on Beyond and the ultimate value of its campaign. The brand needed to hedge its bets and evaluate whether the number of media impressions outweighed its negative or positive value. Initial answers suggest no, as the brand altered its original posters (featured here) for those acceptable to Transport for London in order to display them on the subway.

What they said:

“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,” said Ian Strang, Beyond’s co-founder. “Our reluctance to talk about death is the reason funeral costs continue to spiral and why you pay far too much for writing a will or settling an estate. We’re stripping away the emperor’s clothes, the over-reverence assigned to what is, after all, an inevitable conclusion, an inescapable purchase — using humor. ”