Funeral home offers electronic billboard obits

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - October 22, 2009

Iles Funeral Home in Des Moines is going high-tech with its funeral announcements, putting them on electronic billboards around the city.

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.

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.

Wild was approached by Clear Channel Outdoors, which provides the digital billboards, about advertising Iles Funeral Home on the signs. Instead, Wild decided to use the billboards to let the public know about visitations and funeral services.

"I thought it was forward thinking and innovative," said Tim Jameson, president of the Des Moines division of Clear Channel Outdoor.

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.

Koth acknowledged concerns that the billboards could be a distraction, particularly if someone spots the name of a friend or acquaintance without knowing about it beforehand.

But Jameson said he doesn't think the billboards have been a problem.

"The ad is for people who normally wouldn't be reached," he said. "It's no different that getting a text message or e-mail on your phone while you're driving down the road that somebody has died."

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