Having watched two rugby games, five football matches and one boxing match the weekend before last, my control over the TV remote was ceded to my wife on Sunday evening.
My fears were confirmed when she chose Downton Abbey as her prime-time choice but I reasoned that at least this would give me the chance to see the much anticipated Aviva idents bookending the breaks on ITV’s flagship drama.
I was interested to hear Mrs Jeynes’ reaction as a layman. Unlike the majority of comments on Twitter, she did not find the idents disturbing or morbid and actually said they grabbed her attention.
However, like those on Twitter, she misunderstood the product that was being sold, believing it to be “life insurance or maybe health cover”.
This misapprehension and the overt dislike expressed by many via social media has led to some criticism of the campaign – but this largely misses the point.
The money being spent on these ads is about brand-building. Aviva has a direct-to-consumer offering and is using its financial muscle to direct customers to its website, in just the same way that supermarkets want us to come in and buy from them without insisting we purchase specific goods.
Both the adverts and the associated website suggest customers could speak to their financial adviser. However, as we know, there are great swathes of the public who do not have this kind of relationship and, moreover, would not know where to look to find one.
That is not to say this campaign will not be of benefit to IFAs. Quite the opposite. That protection is being publicised on a national level means intermediaries have a great opening gambit when bringing the topic up with clients.
The more tangible examples brokers can use to make protection relevant to their customers the better and so advertising, news stories about celebrities contracting illnesses and personal experiences are all invaluable.
There is pressure on other insurers to build awareness of protection. However, it is important that the medium is correct, particularly for those of us without a direct-to-consumer proposition.
The initial reaction to Aviva’s promotion shows that many customers do not understand our products or the need for them and this could mean that buying direct leads to incorrect or inadequate purchases.
We see intermediaries as key to increasing protection take-up and any provider who does must put its money where its mouth is.
To this end we invest heavily in face-to-face support for brokers and in developing unique and innovative products that create new opportunities and expand existing ones.
We all have to do our bit and any attempt to grow protection sales should be welcomed, not criticised.
Phil Jeynes is head of account development at PruProtect