Griefsploitation: an advertising trend that needs to die

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Ads are everywhere. They are on our trains, they are on our planes, they are wrapped around our automobiles. They are in our homes, on our homes, they are even on the homeless. Yes, really; homeless people have been used as media space by marketers thinking outside the box; charmingly, it’s called “bumvertising”. Still, despite the constant creep of commercialism there is one final frontier that has, as yet, remained blissfully ad-free: the graveyard.

This isn’t to say that death doesn’t sell. On the contrary, posthumous fame is often the most lucrative. In Mark Twain’s play Is He Dead?, an artist fakes his death to increase the value of his work. As one of the characters explains: “A painter has so much more talent when he’s dead. Indeed, the deader he is, the better he is.” However, death normally doesn’t sell consumer brands. Nobody wants to see ads for flame-grilled burgers at a crematorium. Or be reminded that the unstoppable march of time means we are all going to die no matter how much expensive skin cream we slather on. Death is not aspirational and exploiting loss for commercial gain is clearly inappropriate.