Choice Funeral Plans launch their new TV advert with loveable characters Maureen & Brenda

20 renditions of She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain, a long day in church, and family members as extras – behind the scenes of a new TV advert for Choice Funeral Plans

In the next few weeks, Sky TV and Virgin Media audiences will be seeing a lot of Maureen and Brenda – two lifelong best pals attending various funerals of their friends.

The adorable duo are the lead characters of the new television adverts for Choice Funeral Plans, provided by Alternative Planning Company – part of the Funeral Partners Group.

The premise of the adverts – which will promote funeral plans to specific audiences for six key Funeral Partners brands – sees the witty pair making wry comments from the back of a church about the choices and details of their friends’ funerals, and how they might have benefitted from having a funeral plan.

Humour is, without doubt, a difficult thing to pull off in advertising within the funeral industry. But it was a route the team at Funeral Partners decided to take to stand out in a competitive market, with support from top agency How Now Creative, after market research suggested the target audience were tired of funeral adverts which can be so often unnecessarily sombre, dull or irrelevant.

The cheekiness, honesty, and naivety from the two-lead characters aims to get the audience to identify with them, see parts of themselves or family members and position the brand as trustworthy and likeable.

How Now’s credentials include videos for the launch of the Elizabeth Line – London Underground Network, McDonald’s, Heart Radio, LBC, and Women’s Six Nations Rebrand. The quality of their portfolio is why they were selected by the Funeral Partners marketing team to work on this exciting project.

Phil Bolger, Founder and Executive Creative Director at How Now said: “It’s been an exciting journey working with the Funeral Partners team.

“From the first briefing we quickly realised that humour could set us apart, as our unique position on humour put us there – in the pews, at the funerals with our creation – Maureen and Brenda.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing directing an actor with such understated, pinpoint-sharp, comic ability – and then put two of them, in the same scene. It was sublime.

“Maureen and Brenda’s friendship, and its nuances, is the vehicle for positioning the brand within the audience’s heart.”

Watch Maureen and Brenda in action in the TV ads below.

Funeral Partners Chief Executive Sam Kershaw, said there was a variety of reasons for deciding to run a television campaign, and this is one part of a broader marketing strategy to bring growth.

“The key aim is to raise awareness of our Choice Funeral Plans in the local communities we serve, highlighting, with light humour, what could happen if you don’t plan your funeral in advance.

In addition, we wanted to let people know that they can buy a funeral plan locally from us, their funeral can be conducted by a brand they may know and trust, and that if they plan in advance their funeral will be carried out in accordance with their personal wishes, when the time comes,” he said.

“One of the important aspects to note with a Choice Funeral Plan is that the Funeral Partners Group is both a funeral plan provider and a Funeral Director. Most of our funeral plans are purchased in our network of funeral homes across the UK, which helps to keep customers within the Funeral Partners family of businesses.”

Steve Coyle, Director of PreNeed at Funeral Partners, said: “Funeral Plans are a growing market and becoming more and more popular as part of later life planning.

“Since the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulation, consumers are more aware than ever, and we wanted to create an advert which highlighted the potential importance of capturing your funeral wishes in advance.

“A Devon tea is always waiting for Maureen and Brenda, at our main Choice office in Torquay!”

Marketing Director Kelly Hailou added: “We’re really excited to be launching our first ever TV campaign and it will be supported through the line in local press adverts, social media, corporate public relations, in the trade press, on our websites and in branch.

“Television is a new channel for us, but I am confident it will be successful and help us reach new audiences and build our brand awareness.”

Having launched in early March, the adverts will be shown for three months using Sky Adsmart appearing on over 80 channels with the target audience seeing the adverts approximately 20 times.

Households where there is one or more person over 55 in the direct areas surrounding six carefully selected funeral homes in the Funeral Partners network will be targeted as part of a trial.

The chosen funeral homes are Arthur Gresty Funeral Homes in Greater Manchester, Chris White Funeral Directors in Salisbury, Wm. Dodgson & Son Funeral Service in Leeds, Miles & Daughters Funeral Directors in Berkshire, Harpin’s Funeral Service in Wakefield and Frank Dooley & Son Funeral Directors in Saint Helens.

Although the advert was months in the planning, including pitch meetings with agencies and developing several script ideas into three distinct adverts, shooting was done in one – very long – day.

The stories see Maureen and Brenda attend the funerals of Lenka Wozniak, Stan Hope and Alan Mitchell, set in a beautiful church with pews filled by professional extras supplemented by a few members of the Funeral Partners team and some of their family members.

Kelly Hailou praised everyone involved in the shoot for their time and dedication.

“We were so impressed with the How Now talent, professionalism and set up on the day, working with them has been an absolute pleasure, they really understood our brief and worked with us to deliver high quality scripts and precision production,” she said.

“It certainly could not have been produced with one man and a camera as some people may think.

“There were floodlights outside the church for consistent lighting as we were filming from 7.30am until 9pm.

“The production team had blacked out some windows in the top of the church roof climbing up on big ladders with ropes, the volume of kit was impressive.  There was a full lighting crew and sound teams to ensure everything was spot on, loads of monitors, even a smoke machine for ambience.

“Maureen and Brenda were true professionals and really got into character – their warmth and charm was evident; it was a pleasure to work with them.

“It was an amazing experience to see how many people were involved in creating the adverts, I really enjoyed sitting in my director’s chair and dressing up to star in the choir as part of the backgrounds extras, you can just see the back of my head.

“One version involved musician Jake Rodrigues– who has been on TV shows fronted by comedians Al Murray and Russell Howard – performing as a one-man-band and he must have played She’ll Be Coming Round The Mountain at least 20 times to ensure we got the perfect shots. He was wonderful to work with.

“I look forward to seeing how these adverts are received and perform so that we can do more TV advertising and extend the campaign across our other brands and nationally.”

Sam Kershaw added: “I’m delighted and excited to say the adverts have turned out better than I could have hoped for, the quality, gentle humour combined with clear messages work brilliantly across the three versions.

“Kelly, her marketing team and How Now have brought the campaign to life whilst being respectful and sensitive to our industry.”