Obituaries and the Invasion of Advertising

Respectful obituaries

While the obituary below is purely fictional, the account is true!

Lorraine Anderson, age 78, died peacefully in her home in West Harford, Connecticut on July 8, 2015.  She was the daughter of Steven and Clara Bennett of Boston, Massachusetts. She is pre-deceased by her husband, Timothy Anderson, CEO of DoItRight Corporation. 

Lorraine was a homemaker and enjoyed many charitable activities such as volunteering for the Salvation Army, the ASPCA.org and the local food bank.    Her children include- Arthur, 45, of Waterbury, CT and Jessica Somerset of Springfield Massachusetts. Grandchildren include Aiden, 11, and Mary 14. 

Lorraine was described as “full of life” and also doted on her dachshund, puppy, “Jellybean” prior to her illness with cancer.  In lieu of flowers, her family wishes donations to be sent to her favorite charities.   Funeral Arrangements will be held on Friday, July 10th, for wake calling hours from 2 to 5 pm at the Molloy Funeral Home, 906 Farmington Avenue. Burial will be on Saturday, July 11th at 11 am at the Fairview Cemetery, 200 Whitman Avenue.   For further information contact the Molloy Funeral Home

As I was searching for the obituary of an elderly client, who unfortunately passed away from medication toxicity, in the local small town newspaper, what I found, and was struck by, was a nearby remnant advertisement for a strip bar! I was horrified to see this ad so close to the newspaper stories of the deceased.

In the past, I have written about the ceremonial aspects of death and even consumer related information about how to plan for a funeral. However, this blog focuses on a little known practice when news organizations need revenue at any cost.

How to Write an Obituaryremnant ads

 

A little background about the ominous chore of obituary writing. In generations past, writing our own, or a relative’s obituary was not something that would ever occur to us. That was someone else’s chore, the funeral home, perhaps. Nowadays, people write their own in advance, even my own mother has done so. This may be a way to control the content.

If left to the devices of a funeral home director a fill in the blank template is often used, much like the all too generic victim impact statement which I argue against. Alternately, many news organizations often pre-write obituaries about the rich and famous years in advance in case they are needed at a moment’s notice. You can always roll the dice and have a relative write your obituary. Nonetheless, if your relatives’ perception of what is important to you is vastly different from what you want people to know, I say write your own, which is on my to-do list.  Mine has to be a lot more interesting than who I’m related to. On the other hand, some my say, “Who cares, I’m dead anyway.”

  • Obituary – is a news article reporting the recent death of a person with a summary of their life’s milestones and information about an upcoming funeral;
  • Death Notice – is a paid advertisement , typically bare bones (pardon the pun!)  Omitting biographical information. These are typically for legal reasons.
  • Memorial Ad – usually written by family with the assistance of the funeral home.
  • Costs – (via www.connectlegacy.com) Fees are dependent upon the newspaper, size of photo, day of the week to be published and frequency of posting. If you are dealing with a small town newspapers or collaboration of small town papers, they may include a photo for free and charge $50 for text with the photo. Or, if the local person has some notoriety in business, politics, entertainment etc., the paper may run the obituary for free.
  • Large City Newspapers – May provide a 45 line obituary and charge you $386-$535.00. A nationally known newspaper can charge a whopping $1,200 for a 49 line obituary.
  • The Hartford Courant – (The oldest newspaper in the U.S) .  A standard funeral notice contains only info about the funeral service running  in the obit section and on-line with a photo  and limited emblem design starting at $36.53. Commemoration ads regarding special anniversaries or occasions – provides all of the above, a notice in www.online@legacy.com and more choice of emblems for $48.28 and above.

An Obituary and a Strip Bar: Returning to Remnant Adsnewspaper-434323_640

How could any newspaper, large or small, allow something as disrespectful as a strip bar ad to appear immediately above someone’s obituary? At the time, when I discovered this at work, I did an internet search and called the editor of the BP newspaper, a small town of 60,000 residents. The editor listened, but essentially did nothing, no explanation, no outrage, no ability to put herself in the grieving family’s shoes should this be discovered! This was not good enough for me, I had to know more.

Remnant ads by definition, are advertising spaces which the media company has not been able to sell. Why? Reasons may include the cost of the space, lack of interest in the time slot or page, or lack of advertisers.

According to Paul Suggett, advertising expert, “advertising space is finite…has a very definite lifespan and if not purchased, it goes to waste with a house ad” which is an ad placed in some sort of media that is run by the company who owns the media outlet. The house ad is a common device for using up unsold advertising inventory, as a way of promoting the company’s own interests, a public service announcement, or those irritating very early in the morning ads on the radio or TV giving the phone number six times.

Remnant ads are attractive to those on a very limited budget. Rather than lose revenue on the radio, TV or billboards, these scrap ads can appear at deep discounts, typically 75% less than the going rate.  To  fill up space, they are normally run in rotation and give these companies exposure they never would have had in the first place.  The disadvantages are there are no choices where or when the ad will run.

The good news is that larger, well established newspapers and other media groups have stringent standards and would never allow this to occur.  I was told by a marketing director at the Hartford Courant that they maintain the highest standards and NEVER allow such ads, much less on the obituary pages, nor do they allow gun ads as another example.

Conclusion: 

If you want exposure for your business with remnant ads in a haphazard manner, that’s your choice.  However, my concern is the impact on grieving families when remnant ads, even in rotation, are allowed to appear on obituaries and serve to insult and disrespect them. It seems that with staff cuts, no one sufficiently monitors the juxtaposition or appropriateness of advertisements. Must the almighty dollar rule in every instance? Shouldn’t an obituary be sacred ground?

Should you need a little practical advice when writing your own or family member’s obituary, I refer you to How to Write as a common sense resource.