News & Views

ABTO / Death of a Bentley

by Contagious Team

Luxury car funeral hoax raises awareness about organ donation in Brazil

Would you bury a $500,000 car? 

That's what a Brazilian entrepreneur announced he was going to do with his brand new Bentley last week. Chiquinho Scarpa, one of Brazil's richest men, said he was inspired to bury his Bentley Continental Flying Spur after watching a documentary about the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt who were buried with their most treasured possessions so that they would have them in the afterlife. 

Scarpa made his announcement on his Facebook page,first posting a photo of his new car and then posting another with a hole he has supposedly dug for the Bentley in his garden. However, on the day of the car's 'funeral', Scarpa revealed that the burial was in fact a stunt to launch Brazil's National Organ Donation Week, which takes place from 23 to 29 September.


The eccentric businessman invited hundreds of journalists and photographers to his São Paulo mansion to witness the burial. They watched the car being placed in the ground, Scarpa wiping his eyes with a handkerchief and wreaths being placed around the 'grave'. However, before the first shovelful of dirt was thrown, Scarpa announced: 'I'm not crazy, of course I'm not going to bury my car.' 

ABTO (the Brazilian Organ Transplantation Association ) then revealed it was behind the stunt and that its new campaign slogan is 'It's absurd to bury something that's more valuable than a Bentley.' 

'I was judged for wanting to dunk a Bentley, but the truth is that the vast majority of people bury things much more valuable than my car,' said Scarpa. 'They bury hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs, eyes. Now that is absurd. With so many people waiting for a transplant, being buried with these healthy organs that could save the lives of several people is the most wasteful in the world. My Bentley is not worth anything close to that. No wealth, however large, is more valuable than a single organ, because nothing is more valuable than life.'

Contagious Insight
This is a brilliant PR stunt that works because the shock value of a car funeral, combined with the anger people feel toward rich people who take their wealth for granted, makes for the perfect set-up for a bait and switch. ABTO managed to make a meaningful point about the value of organ donations in a way that drew attention and coverage, by equating that being buried with your heart or liver with something as crazy and wasteful as being buried with your car. As a spokesperson from Leo Burnett Tailor Made said: 'Even if organs are more valuable than anything else, people won't ever be shocked by the burial of a healthy heart or liver. However, they are a lot more easily shocked by the burial of an expensive car.'

While organ donations in Brazil increased 75% from 2001 to 2011, participation in the practice is still extremely low and does not cover the country's needs. This campaign was a headline-grabbing way to raise awareness of this issue. And while ordinarily people might not believe anyone would bury their car, Chiquinho Scarpa is not just anyone. In addition to being one of Brazil's richest men, he is also quite the eccentric. This is, after all, a man who owns a white cockatoo, which reportedly has her own business card, whom he calls 'his daughter'. 

Scarpa's kooky reputation made the story somewhat believable, while his fame helped build interest, with the campaign getting international coverage by media including Globo's G1 network and the UK's The Daily Mail and The Sunday Times papers. Scarpa has 130,000 followers on Facebook and one of his posts about the car funeral gained 10,000 comments. While the comments were initially outrage at his behaviour, this turned to admiration once he revealed the hoax. At Contagious we usually advise that brands proceed with caution with hoaxes as people don't like to made fools of, but since the brand at the heart of this campaign promoting charitable behaviour, people are much more forgiving.


This story originally appeared on Contagious Feed. Contagious Feed is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious Feed contact