Over the weekend, residents of Charlotte, North Carolina — as well as any football fans in the city for the big game — were surprised to see a truck advertising a local funeral home sporting an unexpected slogan: “Don’t get vaccinated.”

Onlookers took to Twitter to post pictures of the unusual automobile, which observers said driven continuous “laps” around the Bank of America Stadium just before the Carolina Panthers were scheduled to play their rivals, the New Orleans Saints. It continued its “laps” during the game as well, according to Twitter time stamps.

However it’s since been revealed that the “Wilmore Funeral Home” does not in fact exist, and the morbid “advertisement” was actually a publicity stunt hoping to inspire onlookers to get vaccinated against Covid. Hence: The very calculated choice of promoting the message in literal circles around a major football game.

The “funeral home” website advertised on the vehicle, wilmorefuneralhome.com, is actually online, but only consists of a landing page that reads — rather ominously — “Get vaccinated now. If not, see you soon.” Clicking “get vaccinated now” then re-directs visitors to StarMed Healthcare’s COVID-19 registration page.

Screenshot of wilmorefuneralhome.com.Screenshot of wilmorefuneralhome.com.Credit: wilmorefuneralhome.com

Charlotte advertising agency Boone Oakley has since come forward as the creator of the unique marketing ploy, asserting that it was an effort to encourage North Carolina residents to get vaccinated. As of right now, only 49 percent of eligible people have been vaccinated in the state, while average daily cases of Covid have increased by 48 percent in just 14 days, according the New York Times COVID-19 vaccine tracker.

David Oakley, president of Boone Oakley, told Newsweek that “almost everyone here [at Boone Oakley] got their vaccines at StarMed,” which piqued their interest in promoting the urgent care centres.

As for what inspired the uncommon advertising campaign, Oakley said: ”A lot of pro-vaccine advertising is very straightforward. We thought, ‘Is there a way to turn it around and do it from a different perspective?’” Upon conceptualising their unprecedented plan, Oakley then contacted Crenshaw Visions in South Carolina to make their mobile billboard a reality.

Lastly, Oakley admitted that while the team was initially nervous about the stunt, if they can inspire just one person to get vaccinated, it will have been worth it.

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