This Cleveland Cemetery Is Surprisingly Great at ‘Death-Positive’ Advertising

Agency Brokaw keeps things lively for Lake View

Lake View Cemetery is the resting place of a president and America's first billionaire. But everyone else is welcome too. Brokaw
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Some things are harder to sell than others. Cemetery plots are certainly right up there.

But Cleveland’s 150-year old Lake View Cemetery, which functions as both a tourist destination and a final destination, seems up to the task.

Through it’s digital outdoor advertising, created by locally based agency Brokaw with an aim of being “death-positive,” the cemetery most often associated with its lavish Gilded Age memorials has carved out an identity that’s approachable, conversational and even pretty funny.

The nonprofit cemetery—which includes the tombs of assassinated President James A. Garfield and billionaire John D. Rockefeller—has worked to shed its image as an eternal home only to those from society’s upper crust. Advertising has been a key part of that strategy, cemetery officials say.

“This is a great example of how, together with Brokaw, we’ve completely reinvented our brand from being perceived as an elitist cemetery to a place that celebrates all walks of life and beyond,” says Kathy Goss, president and CEO of the Lake View Cemetery Association.

Some of the ads reference the importance of planning for end of life, while others are more about the cemetery’s openness to visitors and new permanent residents alike.

Placed at one of the city’s busiest intersections, the digital ads often play off the annoyances of traffic in comparison to … longer-term issues. Other messages play off holidays or events like Cleveland Indians games or simply convey everyday messages about the cemetery’s atmosphere of accessibility.

• “Think rush hour lasts an eternity? You don’t know the half of it.”
• “All things must come to an end. Even traffic jams.”
• “Happy Fourth of July! We’re thrilled to celebrate a birthday for once.”
• “Consider us the Cooperstown of Cleveland burials.”
• “There are no conditions for joining us. Just, you know.”

“It’s definitely an unexpected media placement for a cemetery,” says Steve McKeown, creative director at Brokaw. “But they’ve consistently encouraged us to find new ways to bring the Lake View Cemetery voice to, you know, life.”

Agency: Brokaw
Art Director: Allison Beer
Copywriter: Annie Ertle
Animator: Sarah Wagner
Creative Director: Steve McKeown
Associate Creative Director: Mark McKenzie
Account Executive: Joe McLaughlin
Client: Kathy Goss, Lake View Cemetery

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