Continued innovation and investment are key for Obituaries

Key Results from 266 Facebook Campaigns













Media: Chicago Sun-Times

Key Executive: Mary Hoffman, Director of Classifieds

Initiative: Targeted Facebook Obituaries from iPublish Media

Chicago Sun-Times circle logo


Hoffman came to the Chicago Sun-Times from a competing newspaper, so she understood the need for continued innovation and investment in key franchises like obituaries—but only if they provided genuine value to the family and the funeral homes. After watching a demo on AdPortal Targeted Obituaries on Facebook, she was convinced that the product would help the department build on its base, especially since 90% of the ads were placed through funeral homes who needed better ways to serve families afflicted by the pandemic.


In July 2020, the Chicago Sun-Times turned on the AdPortal Targeted Obituary module, that bundles Facebook obituary news feed ads and allows the family to send them to selected targets that likely came in contact with the deceased, but may not be “in touch” with the family, such as the deceased’s alma mater, former workplace colleagues, and activity groups in specific cities—like Junior League or Rotary Club.

Since they already used the iPublish AdPortal Obits platform, Chicago Sun-Times and iPublish simply needed to set pricing and turn on the targeting and interface to Facebook—a process that only took a few days.

Next, the classified department reached out to funeral homes and trained their call center for private party sales to the community educating both about the value and benefits of the new social campaign program. Team Chicago Sun-Times still contacts about five funeral homes a week to share the results and value the target obituaries Facebook news feed campaigns are bringing. Chicago Sun-Times also runs filler ads in the newspaper to promote the service.

Beyond that, the new targeted Facebook news feed campaign service was turnkey and delivered outstanding results.


Facebook Targeting OptionsLike the Utah Media Group, Hoffman told the virtual audience at the Digital Summit that click-thru rates (CTR’s) and engagements were stellar across the board. Families were incredibly appreciative, and began sending thank you emails to funeral homes.

“The response from the funeral homes and families has been nothing but stellar. The key reason is that targeting, say, a parent’s school, or company where they had worked, would get immediate engagement and response. So funeral homes receive wonderful stories back from families,” Hoffman said.

She showcased each of the five appreciative notes, like this one:

We are so thankful….During this difficult time in the world where we cannot all be together.” —The Cummins Family

In addition, Chicago Sun-Times has seen an influx of new funeral homes signing up for the bundled social media service. When asked by the audience if the rate increase to support targeted Facebook ads was sustainable, Hoffman said that contrary to expectations, no one even brought it up.

There was, “No pushback on the rate increase. None.”


Convinced of the need for continuous innovation to maintain a competitive advantage, Mary and her team at Chicago Sun-Times bundled targeted Facebook news feed ad campaigns with their print obituaries in their self-serve platform from iPublish Media. The response from the families and funeral homes has been overwhelmingly positive along with extraordinary campaign performance and engagement metrics—5.8% and 6% respectively. The Chicago Sun-Times and funeral homes continue to receive notes of appreciation from families expressing their gratitude for a much-needed service during this difficult time in the world.

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