These Censored Ads Confront a Brutal Truth Nobody Wants to Admit. Now They’ve Gone Viral. (Here Are the Pictures)
Sometimes the best way to get the word out is for someone else to say you can’t.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
It's the most brutal truth in the world: Everyone will one day die.
So, imagine that you have to create an ad campaign that gets people to think about death.
Now a British company has not only done it, they've managed to make their ads go viral.
I think there's an amazing marketing lesson here. If you've ever complained that some other organization gets tons of free media, while you have a hard time getting the word out, please take a few minutes to dig through what this company did.
Because if you can sell people on death, you can sell them on anything.
Roasting Temperatures, Depart From Anywhere!
Beyond provides services including a way to compare funeral planers and funeral homes. Recently, they came up with an ad campaign that used humor to get the point across.
Case in point: a public transit ad that looks (at first) like like it's advertising a fun beach vacation. However, you soon realize that the happy couple aren't carrying surf boards; they're carrying coffins.
And the 'once in a lifetime' offer isn't a trip to a tropical island, but instead a discount on cremation.
"Roasting temperatures!" the ad promises. "Depart from anywhere!"
(I'm including their ads at the end of this article.)
But what happened next made the thing really go viral.
'Likely to cause serious and widespread offence.'
They were originally supposed to run on the London Underground. But the approval organization, Transport for London (called TfL), rejected them, saying they were "likely to cause serious and widespread offence."
Now, having your ads rejected would seem at first like a real setback. But this is 2018. People don't like told what they are and aren't allowed to see.
So when word got out that these ads were too hot for TfL, that news made them go viral.
'A media frenzy'
"The last few days have seen a media frenzy engulf us here at Beyond," the company wrote in a blog post.
Sure enough, they got far more exposure out of the fact that their ads were banned, than they would have if they'd been able to run them on the London Underground.
The story spread to this side of the Atlantic, being picked up in the New York Times and other media. (Of course now they have truly hit the big time, by being featured on Inc.com.)
Beyond kept things up, doing additional press releases and reporting that hundreds of people had used a free "create a will" feature on their site, and that they'd allocated "several hundred thousand pounds for charity through legacy gifts."
How to make a message go viral
Beyond has been around for a few years, and I assume they've tried other marketing campaigns before. But this one worked for several reasons.
If I were trying to duplicate their success I'd focus on five things:
1. A core truth
I'll bet whatever you're selling, if it's good, helps people with something really fundamental. Find that core truth, and talk directly about it.
2. A controversy
Did Beyond think TfL might reject their ads? I don't know. But it's amazing if you can hit the target exactly: envelope-pushing enough that a careful gatekeeper might block it, but fair enough that their rejection might create a controversy.
3. A follow up
Beyond was prepared for this. When I reached out via email their CEO responded within minutes. Be ready for what happens next with a follow up plan.
4. Numbers and stories
Think about the stories people can tell about your company. For example, it was smart for Beyond to tally up all the charitable donations people committed after using their free "create a will" app.
Put an asterisk next to this one. When humor works great, it's great. When it doesn't, you're in trouble. Here, it worked.
Here are the banned ads. What do you think?