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'Don't get vaccinated': Fake funeral home promotes COVID-19 vaccines

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Photo by MARCO LONGARI/AFP

A Charlotte, North Carolina, ad agency partnered with a fictional funeral home to spread a message to get vaccinated amid the COVID-19 pandemic: Get vaccinated or die.

What are the details?

The campaign, helmed by firm BooneOakley, was intended to promote vaccination against the coronavirus.

Its digital billboard — placed on the side of a black truck — said, "Don't get vaccinated."

The truck circled Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte during the Carolina Panthers-New Orleans Saints NFL game on Sunday.

According to the Washington Post, the billboard shared the name, website, and telephone number of a business purporting to be a funeral home.

The landing page for the fictional Wilmore Funeral Home's website states, "Get vaccinated now. If not, see you soon."

The text links to a vaccination registration site for local healthcare provider, StarMed.

The Post reported, "For more than a day, the people behind the stunt remained a mystery, even to officials at StarMed. The website's creator was hidden, and the number on the side of the truck led to a third party whose voicemail was, unsurprisingly, full."

By Tuesday morning, however, the advertising agency claimed responsibility for the viral ad.

In a tweet, the agency wrote, "It was us. Get vaccinated."

What else?

During an interview about the campaign, David Oakley, the firm's president, said that the idea was conceived while "talking about who benefits from unvaccinated people falling ill and dying of COVID-19."

"Everything that's being done right now is pretty straightforward," he said. "'Get the shot,' 'Get vaccinated today.' It was a different way of going about the message."

Oakley added that he and the team "felt ... personally this was a cause we believed in."

"[W]e should use our resources for the common good," he explained.

Oakley added that the company was intent on spreading the message of vaccination to anyone who would listen.

"Anything that we can do to get people vaccinated," he said. "If it gets one person to change their mind, it's worth every penny."

Chris Dobbins, StarMed's chief of relations and response, said that he, too, believed that the campaign was a tongue-in-cheek way to get people vaccinated.

“It's not your typical marketing plan. But sure enough, people looked," Dobbins admitted. “If it's going to educate and motivate people, we're going to appreciate it."

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