Fake ad increases vaccine appointments in Charlotte

Fake ad increases vaccine appointments in Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A North Carolina advertising agency is getting national attention after their mobile billboard shocked hundreds of tailgaters outside a Panthers home game in September.

A large truck drove around Uptown Charlotte with a message: “Don’t Get Vaccinated.” The ad seemed to be from a fake funeral home.

The funeral home’s website displays a different message: “Get Vaccinated Now, If Not See You Soon,” and it links back to StarMed Healthcare’s website.

“When you first see it…you’re incensed, how could anyone put that message up there that blatantly?” BooneOakley founder David Oakley said. “Then a split second later you’re like, ‘who put it up?’ Wilmore Funeral Home. A funeral home? Oh my god!”

Oakley says his agency specializes in doing work that gets noticed, talked about, and shared. Pictures and videos of the mobile billboard were shared with people across the country on social media.

Oakley says the idea started out as a text from a copywriter at his agency, Mary Gross. Gross has a 1-year-old at home and was helping Oakley come up with an idea for a pro-vaccination campaign.

“The more people who get vaccinated, especially in Charlotte, the safer my kid is and the safer other kids are,” Gross said.

As of right now, those 12 years old and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Gross and Oakley admit they were a bit nervous about the reaction their ad would get, but Oakley says the reception has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“We’ve heard from doctors, nurses, emergency room workers,” Oakley said. “We’ve [also] gotten dozens of letters of people just thanking us for it.”

A few days after Oakley’s billboard was seen driving around Uptown Charlotte, StarMed Healthcare reported a 22 % increase in vaccine appointments compared to the week prior.

“We’re completely proud, so happy, and like ‘wow we made a difference,’” Oakley said. “That’s what’s really important about this.”

StarMed Healthcare also posted on Twitter that they’re giving out “Wilmore Funeral Home” T-shirts to some of those who get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“It makes me feel extremely proud,” Oakley said. “I think it’s great if anyone wants to carry on the [pro-vaccination] message on their body like that – it’s fantastic.”

Oakley says he’s getting requests from around the country to have a truck drive their ad around major cities and large events, like college and pro-football games, in hopes of getting more people vaccinated against COVID-19.

Oakley did not confirm whether the billboard would make another appearance in Charlotte or around the country. 

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