The Associated Press recently ran a news story about Iles Funeral Home in Des Moines, Iowa that started using electronic billboards to announce visitations and funeral services.
John Wild, the general manager for Iles, compared it to the posting of funeral announcements at shops and post offices in rural communities where the business has funeral homes.
“That’s how we get the word out about visitations and services in those communities and when we were approached about using electronic billboards, we thought it would be a good way to do the same thing here in Des Moines,” Wild said.
The digital announcements, which have appeared on five billboards around Des Moines for a few months, last about 8 seconds. Announcements can flash the person’s name, picture and service details as well as the funeral home’s Web site. The announcement rotates with other ads and there is no additional cost to the family.
Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the National Funeral Directors Association in Brookfield, Wis., said it’s the first time she’s heard of a funeral home displaying service information on a billboard.
It would be a bit of a shock if one of those announcements featured someone you knew, but didn’t know had died. But, it’s just one other form of communication about funerals, taking advantage of new technology.
Think about how communications about death have evolved: telling someone in person, reading an obituary in the newspaper, getting a telegram, receiving a phone call, hearing about a death on radio or TV, reading an email, getting a text message, or seeing information online through web sites, chat groups, blogs, Facebook, MySpace Twitter, and more. Why not electronic billboards?
I think the funeral home should give the family the option to opt out of that sort of communication vehicle if they’re not comfortable with their loved one’s name in lights. What do you think?