Some people just can’t see the humor in death. Not so the Billboard Liberation Front (BLF).
A billboard created by the Final Exit Network (FEN), a controversial right to die organization, was on display for less than a month when it suffered a flash guerrilla attack from the BLF. The billboard, which stood at the corner of Howard and South Van Ness in San Francisco, originally read: “My Life My Death My Choice,” and was followed by the URL for the Final Exit Network’s website.
Once “liberated,” the billboard read: My Life My Death My Choice.... PhillipMorris.com.
In a mocking press release, the BLF wrote that it was “honored to announce a new marketing partnership with Phillip Morris that finally brings together the rugged sense of American independence with your most important choice as a consumer: your death.”
“We’ve always said that the only two things in life that are unavoidable are death and taxes,” commented Michael E. Szymanczyk, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Philip Morris. “This campaign drives home that message where, if you are gonna die, might as well do it on your terms. Just like our Marlboro Men did.”
The press release went on to note that all former Marlboro Men "were unavailable for comment due to their rugged, manly choice of death by lung cancer."
I find this pretty funny, in a dark humor kind of way, and I'd like to get rid of billboards all together. But unlike an earlier guerrilla action that took aim at the McDonald’s Corporation – doctoring a McD’s billboard to read: “You have about 10,000 tastebuds. Kill them all.” (instead of use them all) -- the BLF used a small and controversial group who are already under legal pressure to make their point. (Four members of the Final Exit Network were arrested last year in Georgia after allegedly aiding a man with terminal suicide to die. The trial is set to begin next month. All four defendants are elderly and this has been an incredibly stressful time for them.)
But the BLF saw a golden opportunity to take a pot shot at Phillip Morris and they took it. And, frankly, who can blame them? FEN’s rather self-righteous slogan was just too good to pass up. But I am sorry FEN got caught in the crosshairs. Given our country’s enormous uneasiness with end-of-life issues (Terri Schiavo, talk of death panels, etc.) I think groups like FEN need to be able to get their message out.
But maybe not on billboards. After all, what makes the billboard liberationists so effective is that they use this in-your-face marketing technique against the marketers – and make the point that billboards are obnoxious. And whether you agree or disagree with what FEN is selling, it makes me feel a bit queasy that they are selling anything at all.
Causes Zoe FitzGerald Carter Supports
National Parkinson Foundation
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
Michael J. Fox Parkinson's Foundation