Fake funeral home ad pushes COVID-19 vaccinations in North Carolina

A North Carolina advertising agency has garnered national attention for faking a funeral home billboard in hopes of driving people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Don’t get vaccinated" was the simple message painted in black and white on a box truck that was driven around Charlotte Sunday outside the Bank of America Stadium.

The ad appeared to be sponsored by Wilmore Funeral Home with a listed web address. When you go to its website, the message then reads "Get vaccinated now. If not, see you soon." The provided link then takes you StarMed Healthcare to get registered for a COVID-19 vaccine. 

BooneOakley agency said there is no such thing as Wilmore Funeral Home, and the billboard was a publicity stunt to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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"Of course it’s frustrating that not enough people are getting vaccinated," President David Oakley told FOX Television Stations Wednesday. "From my perspective, it’s a no-brainer. You know it’s medical science. Get yourself protected against this virus."

Oakley said he and his team thought of the idea weeks before the rollout. 

"We were thinking about what can we do to help get more shots in the arms," he said. "And you know we’re a creative ad agency, and we said you know, maybe we should use our talents for the common good."

Oakley said the team went with the funeral home angle because they believed it was a business that has unfortunately prospered during the pandemic. 

"To me what was unique about the ad, it misdirected people a little bit," Oakley continued. 

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According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, 52% of the state’s total population is fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate slightly decreased starting in mid-August after a slight uptick. The number of positive cases has also recently decreased across the state.

Oakley received the vaccine and to his knowledge, has not contracted the coronavirus. However, he said he knows many people who have gotten sick and some who have died from the virus.

Oakley said he’s not sure if anyone has received the vaccine because of his ad. StarMed Healthcare declined to comment to FOX Television Stations. 

"If this ad campaign persuades one person to get the vaccine, it would be worthwhile," Oakley added.

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Oakley said his company doesn't plan to roll out the fake funeral ad again, but his team is thinking of different ways to spread the message.

"An advertisement that is as provocative as this one is, is not going to be for everyone," he continued. "Some people are going to be offended by it. But what offends me are the people who don’t get vaccinated."

"So there. We’re even," he said.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.