Who Really Deserves to Die? It’s a Trick Question

The viral campaign that offended some and confused others is finally explained.

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Lung Cancer Alliance

A cat lover who doesn't deserve to die.

Cat lovers? Hipsters, Beautiful people? Crazy old aunts? It turns out that, nationwide billboards to the contrary, none of these people deserve to die — they’ve merely been part of a new advertising initiative that has been popping up all across America early this week.

The campaign began as a series of mysterious posters in cities throughout the country proclaiming that the folks above “deserve to die” (in addition to “the smug” and “the tattooed”). Each ad carried a link to the website noonedeservestodie.org, which finally revealed the point of the posters last Thursday: a research and awareness campaign sponsored by the Washington-based Lung Cancer Alliance.

“Many people believe that if you have lung cancer you did something to deserve it. It sounds absurd, but it’s true. Lung cancer doesn’t discriminate and neither should you,” the website says, adding that “Though [lung cancer is] the deadliest cancer, it’s the least funded of the top four.”

The campaign caused quite a stir in its first three days, and quite a few reportedly missed the point of the posters on first glance. “I think that’s very offensive to people who are animal lovers,” Shelli Williams told the Chicago CBS station when first shown the cat lovers version of the poster.

“We knew that one would be polarizing,” Denise Kohnke, vice president of strategy for Milwaukee-based Laughlin/Constable ad agency, told TMJ4 after admitting her firm was behind the campaign.  “The absurd thing is no one deserves to die.”

To be fair, some were able to determine the lung cancer message in the first stages of the campaign based on hints from the website that said, “Every year over 160,000 lives are lost to a deadly disease … So, what is the killer? You’ll find out soon enough.”

The most recent records — from 2008 — show that 158,592 people died of lung cancer that year.