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Why death shouldn't be trivialised

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To get the UK talking more about the topic of death, specifically the rising costs of funerals and the legal fees associated, the funeral comparison company Beyond launched a risky advertisement campaign which has been banned by Transport for London.

Beyond funeral advert

Although numerous awareness-raising advertisements find success using shock tactics to get the public talking, with the now famous Toronto child safety seat campaign being a perfect example, the risk does not always pay off.

Indeed, when funeral comparison company Beyond stripped away the reverence associated with funerals to launch a campaign which used humour to get people talking, many people weren't impressed.

Whilst the shocking nature of the campaign was a deliberate choice which could be amusing to those who have not experienced a loss, it has been criticised as being insensitive to the recently bereaved, where a more sensitive approach should have been taken.

It is clearly necessary to talk more about the rising costs of death, with the average U.K funeral costing £3,897 in 2017 and many families unable afford the burden, which comes at a time of great distress.

However, although the campaign's proposed aim is entirely justified, its humorous execution lacked the sensitive touch which would have elevated relevant discussions further.

Instead of talking about the real cost of death, we are left criticising a campaign which held the potential to be more significant, had it addressed the topic with more concern.

For many, the advertisement has simply gone too far and overstepped the boundary between open discussion and offense for numerous reasons.

Whilst Beyond intentionally wanted the campaign to have shock appeal, therefore paving the way for further discussions, it is imperative to recognise death is not a topic for humour and trivialisation.

Instead, it is a period of great change and significance which can drastically affect everyday lives and activities.

For instance, it is anticipated 1 in 5 bereaved people will develop major depression, experiencing emotions such as worthlessness, guilt and suicidal thoughts following the death of a loved one.

It is here where this campaigns insensitivity towards the subject at hand is potentially dangerous.

Where death is downplayed through humorous adverts, life is implied to hold little value or significance and this has the potential to increase depressive thoughts of the recently bereaved.

Furthermore, many religions and cultures around the world place a large significance upon death and the transition of life after living, as demonstrated throughout their belief systems and customs leading up to and after burial.

For instance, in Judaism great care is taken to wash and prepare a body before burial, where mourning traditions and practices can last up to a year.

Equally, Sikhs will take part in up to ten days of scripture readings with relatives and friends when mourning and similar traditions are varied yet applicable across all faiths.

It is to these groups of people whom insinuations death should be no fuss and hassle-free can be particularly offensive, due to a lack of consideration for their beliefs and practices.

It is here where this potential disrespect and lack of sensitivity will fail to initiate the frank and open discussions required to enforce change amongst wider societal groups.

Beyond are entirely justified in attempting to open the discussion regarding death and its monetary costs further, and undeniably had positive intentions when creating the advertisement.

However, the controversy created through the campaign's execution is equally justified, and a more sensitive approach would have had a much greater impact, further encouraging more deliberate and practical discussions about death in the long term.

Image: Beyond

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