MMC Blog

Advertising Opportunities in the Strangest Places: The Obituaries

I had the privilege and the pain of attending the funeral services for a friend, neighbor and fellow church member last weekend. During one of several celebrations of her life, a guest remarked that they were bothered by “all of the AI” when they went looking for her obituary. I couldn’t imagine what they were talking about and thus was quick to dig in the next Monday morning.

It’s happening already where folks are blaming everything new or about which they have a misunderstanding to the elusive AI. In this instance, the guest was referring to the routine digital marketing practice of setting up pages and sites purely for the purpose of collecting eyeballs and thus advertiser dollars. You see, there is money in obituaries.

While obituaries are still published in newspapers (where fees range from $100-$800 or even more in large metro markets), the funeral home of your choice will graciously offer to submit the announcement of your loved ones’ death to services both free and paid to help get that ball rolling. From there, the internet marketers take over.

Opportunities to share details and memorialize loved ones range from free sites like GatheringUs and MyKeeper to sites with paid options that include monthly fees or one lifetime payment like MemorialSource. Where a great many family members get started is with sites like Legacy which offer a digital presence AND a submission option for newspapers.

Obituaries submitted to one service may get “picked up” by another digital marketer and that is where the marketing begins.

Sadly, people die and more sadly people want to read about them, and this accumulation of eyeballs creates a market that is attractive to advertisers. Those advertisers build additional pages and sites to grab search results and suddenly the internet is filled with bereavement notices for friends and loved ones. On each of those pages are paid ad spots (ew!) that in most cases marketers aren’t selling directly to advertisers rather they are getting picked up by advertisers running campaigns via the Google Display Network for marketing and remarketing purposes.

Consider the volume of annoying ads displayed in click bait articles that you see in your daily feed. Then search the obits and you’ll quickly find that the volume of ads alongside death notices is even greater and sometimes stranger in volume and assortment. My search today included ads for Shutterfly, which makes sense, and for a golf course in Florida (which bears no relevancy to me, the location of my search or the bereaved).

Given the volume of obituary pages and the need to stand them up quickly and then allow them to fade into the sunset it is likely that marketers are using AI to aid in their development, but their proliferation isn’t to be blamed on the technology but on the demand from advertisers for eyeballs representing all phases of life.

This post is courtesy of MMC Principal Jennifer Koon.

Recent Posts

Scroll to Top