There’s a Good Reason This Ad Is So Upbeat About Death

Nonprofit Marie Curie wants people talking about the inevitable

The campaign wants to erase the stigma of talking about death so that more people will formalize their end-of-life plans. Marie Curie
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To date, no one has ever avoided death by not talking about it.

In fact, all that really happens when you put off decisions about death is that your loved ones end up stuck with making choices for you in absentia, which is an added stress they really don’t need stacked on top of the grief and other logistics.

That’s why Saatchi & Saatchi London and U.K. nonprofit Marie Curie, named for the famed scientist who researched radiation and focused on helping those with terminal illness, have created a new campaign aimed at joyously erasing the stigmas around talking about death.

“Whatever you call it, we should talk about it” is a light-hearted and brightly colored spot that imagines literal interpretations of expressions for death, such as “kick the bucket” or “take your last bow.”

“As a culture, we avoid talking about death so much that we invent really creative euphemisms to avoid saying the D-word,” says Dan Treichel, executive creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi London. “This seemingly endless list felt like a really interesting way to get people talking and planning for when they ‘meet their maker.'”

According to recent survey conducted by Marie Curie, respondents cited a wide range of problems when unaware of a loved one’s end-of-life preferences. For example, 20% said they were unsure if the loved one would have approved of the chosen funeral, and 18% reported that it led to disagreements among surviving members of the family.

Luckily the research also showed that most (82%) would be willing to discuss their end-of-life wishes with a loved one, though only 36% had actually had such a conversation. Most tellingly, only 25% said they’d begun preparations for their death.

“Our aging population means it is increasingly important for families to have conversations, share their wishes and be prepared so that they have the best chance of a good end of life experience for themselves and those they leave behind,” says Matthew Reed, chief executive of Marie Curie. “When we are bereaved we can experience avoidable regret, guilt, confusion, family conflict, and negative financial and legal impacts.”

For ad aficionados, the spot will feel reminiscent of the highly awarded “Dumb Ways to Die,” an Australian train safety campaign from McCann Melbourne that became an internet phenomenon.

Of course, there’s an important distinction between the two: “Dumb Ways to Die” poked fun at all the ways you shouldn’t perish. This time around, the Marie Curie campaign is smiling in the face of death’s inevitability and reminding us that it’s the one universally shared experience—so we might as well have a chat or two about it.

Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi London
Client: Marie Cure
Executive Director of Fundraising & Engagement: Meredith Niles
Copywriters: Ryan Price, Sarah Heavens
Creative Director/ECD: Dan Treichel (ECD) Guillermo Vega (CCO)
Art director: Maria Suarez-Inclan
Planner/CSU Director: Richard Huntington, Rui Ferreira,
Account Team: Laura Battersby, Cassie Allen, Marie Deery
Designer: Nathan Crawford
Media agency: Opticomm
Media planner: Nicky Legg
Production company: Moth Animation
Audio Postproduction: Finger

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@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."