Per posts, the vehicle was “making laps around Bank of America Stadium before the Panthers game” in Charlotte, North Carolina. In what appeared to be a photograph captured from a vehicle, two sides of the truck were visible, and both read:
Don’t get vaccinated.
~ Wilmore Funeral Home ~
A search for that phone number (803-804-0341) led to a Yelp page for an advertising and graphic design business, Crenshaw Visions. WilmoreFuneralHome.com led to a real website — but not one resembling the actual business site of a real-life funeral home.
No contact information was listed, no images were visible, and the site consisted primarily of a black background. White text read:
~ Wilmore Funeral Home ~
Get vaccinated now.
If not, see you soon.
Clicking “Get vaccinated now” led to a third-party website, an urgent-care facility in Charlotte. A September 20 2021 Charlotte Observer article reported that while the facility claimed no knowledge of the “don’t get vaccinated” truck campaign, a representative added that they welcomed any efforts to drive up vaccination rates:
Dr. Arin Piramzadian, StarMed Healthcare’s chief medical officer, is hoping the unconventional strategy pays off, as the highly contagious delta variant continues to infect hundreds of unvaccinated Charlotte residents each day.
In an interview Monday morning [September 20 2021], Piramzadian said he knows little about the marketing stunt in uptown Charlotte. It was not another quirky tactic from StarMed, though, which has a bold, yet lighthearted flair on social media that’s often poking fun at people who choose to ignore vaccinations or coronavirus guidelines.
“If this saves one person’s life by getting vaccinated, I’m 100% for it … We know that 99% of people who are ending up in the hospital and dying are unvaccinated,” added Piramzadian, who first saw a photo of the truck on Facebook on Monday morning [September 20 2021]. “If that statistic does not scare people… I’m not sure what does. Perhaps a dark humor aspect such as this one does catch someone’s attention.”
As for StarMed’s “flair” on social media, the Observer likely was referencing the company’s direct approach to discussions about testing and vaccines on sites like Twitter:
On September 21 2021, Insider.com reported that an agency was responsible for the “don’t get vaccinated” campaign:
The mobile billboard’s message turned out to be an advertising stunt by Boone Oakley, an ad agency in Charlotte that created the ad to drive up vaccination rates in the state. The Wilmore Funeral Home does not exist.
About 49% of vaccine-eligible people in North Carolina are fully vaccinated, The New York Times‘ COVID-19 vaccine tracker indicated. The state is also recording a steady uptick in COVID-19 infections. As of Monday [September 20 2021], North Carolina recorded a seven-day average of 6,194 COVID-19 infections, a 48% increase in daily case numbers as compared to 14 days ago, the tracker showed.
Speaking to Newsweek, David Oakley, the agency’s president, said he wanted to push people to get vaccinated.
Oakley added that “almost everyone” at the ad agency got vaccinated at StarMed. To promote the center and its vaccination drive, the agency purchased a mobile billboard from the digital-outdoor-advertising company Crenshaw Visions.
The “don’t get vaccinated” funeral home box truck is real as in it exists and the photographs have not been altered, but it was not an advertisement for a “real” funeral home. The truck was spotted in Charlotte on September 19 2021, and on September 21 2021, Boone Oakley president David Oakley explained that the ad agency was hoping to increase North Carolina’s vaccination rates.