Here's the real story behind that viral funeral home anti-vaccine ad

"Who benefits from people dying?" asks ad agency owner who commissioned the sign. "A funeral home."

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
2 min read

You may have seen a photo of a truck carrying a billboard that reads "Don't get vaccinated: Wilmore Funeral Home." The truck sparked viral buzz, with people tweeting such messages as, "Wilmore Funeral Home, out there making $," and "I can't decide if Wilmore Funeral Home is hilarious or terrible." But there's no real funeral home involved. It was a prank with a message.

"It was us," reads a tweet from the BooneOakley advertising agency, the company behind the truck and its viral slogan. "Get vaccinated."

The firm is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the truck was seen driving around during Sunday's Charlotte Panthers NFL game. Agency owner David Oakley told WBTV, the Charlotte CBS affiliate, that the company wanted to deliver an effective pro-vaccination message with a twist.

"The idea came about when we thought about who would really benefit from people not getting the shot," Oakley told the station. "And you kind of go back to the simple fact that people are dying that aren't vaccinated, so who benefits from people dying? A funeral home!" 

The agency chose the name Wilmore for the neighborhood where the company is located, Oakley told the station. And while the funeral home isn't real, the URL on the truck really does work. WilmoreFuneralHome.com takes web users to a stark black-and-white website that reads, "Get vaccinated now. If not, see you soon." It links to a healthcare site where users can sign up to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Wilmore hoax hit home for some people, even if the funeral home doesn't really exist.

"Wilmore Funeral Home, we applaud you!" wrote one person on Twitter.

Said another, "Dope ad campaign for the Wilmore Funeral Home."

This Wilmore ad may be a gimmick, but there's precedent for funeral-related companies getting a bit cheeky with their advertising. For years, Wilbert Burial Vaults displayed a billboard over a busy Roseville, Minnesota, highway that read, "Drive safely! We can wait."