Funeral home firm thinks pink

So what's the story?
With a fluffy pink poodle perched majestically in the back seat, and a look-alike dowager at the wheel, a flashy pink convertible toodles along to who-knows-where. Headline: 'We wouldn't tell you how to live your life. We won't tell you how it should be remembered.'

So what’s the story?

With a fluffy pink poodle perched majestically in the back seat, and a look-alike dowager at the wheel, a flashy pink convertible toodles along to who-knows-where. Headline: ‘We wouldn’t tell you how to live your life. We won’t tell you how it should be remembered.’

Who’s the client, what’s the message and how does it reinforce the brand?

Believe it or not, the client is The Simple Alternative Funeral Centres (TSA), which operates in Toronto, Pickering and Mississauga, Ont. The full-colour, half-page ad began appearing in August in a plum spot on the back page of The Toronto Star’s B section, below the much-perused weather report. In rotation with three other lighthearted executions, it is slated to continue through next spring as the company’s only consumer advertising.

David Stones, TSA’s VP of marketing and communications, says the ads are intended as ‘a breath of fresh air in what is a relatively stodgy industry’ and as an anodyne approach to ‘the whole subject of death care and memorialization and bereavement.

‘They really speak to our brand [because] we pride ourselves on being non-judgmental and open to suggestion,’ he continues. ‘Our tagline is ‘Whatever your choice, we make it happen,’ and we think that’s a real differentiator between us and other funeral service providers.

‘We think this campaign is very cutting edge throughout the whole North American industry – but we don’t want to create the impression that we only cater to the more unusual fringe. That’s why each ad contains a small religious icon, such as a church or a Bible, lower down.’

How did TSA come up with this approach?

‘In determining our new strategic direction, we undertook a great deal of brand exploration,’ says Stones. When the pink poodle ad and its companion executions were tested with focus groups, he says, participants unanimously loved the campaign.

‘They had already told us that, while it’s important to preserve an element of dignity in the messaging, it’s also OK to have a little bit of fun with it. In fact, a very strong theme emerged that these are times to celebrate the lives that have been lived.’

It was that insight that inspired the team at Toronto’s Ambrose Carr Linton Carroll agency, says writer Jeff Katz, who created the campaign with art director Kate Anthony. ‘This account has always been a huge challenge,’ Katz explains. ‘How do you talk about funerals, be dead clear (pardon the pun) about it but not show any funeral imagery? The turning point was: let’s show life, not death. Let’s address the infinite individuality of how people live their lives.’

The general objective of the campaign, adds Katz, is to prompt customers to face their own mortality – or that of aged parents – in a less grim way, with the specific goal of increasing the pre-planning of funerals. ‘So what we’re saying [in the ads] is: OK, live your life your way and when you come to us, we won’t expect you to behave any differently. You can still have things your way, whether you’re down on earth or up in the clouds – or wherever you wind up going.’