It is a format Americans have used for decades but for some reason there were huge reservations to an election debate in Britain. It seems strange there was such reticence, given the limelight is something all politicians normally crave, but in the end our wish was granted.
And what a breath of fresh air it has proved to be. No matter what your political persuasion, something new on the campaign trail has captured British attention with millions of viewers tuning in, countless column inches being written and endless polls being conducted on the back of the debates.
What parallels can we draw for the protection industry? With each new political term, there has been another wave of disaffected voters turned off from politics. In a similar vein, the protection industry has witnessed year after year of falling sales.
Just as the British public have failed to vote, resulting in record low turnouts on polling day, so the number of people taking out protection has dwindled, making no headway on the enormous protection gap.
The televised debates have provided a real opportunity for people to make an informed decision based on what they have seen. Party leaflets through letterboxes are most likely to end up in the bin but the TV debate brought politics into people’s living rooms and made it accessible.
How can we do things differently to get the protection message across to consumers? How can we change our thinking and come up with a scenario where we inform the mass market about protection insurance?
It all comes down to choice but what is important is making an informed choice, so we really need to collectively bring protection to front of mind so it can be mulled over in the same way a vote for a particular political party is considered.
After the first leaders’ debate, Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg topped the instant opinion polls but many have put that down to him receiving a level of exposure he does not normally get. I think this proves the point that, in order for us to resurrect protection sales, we need to gain more exposure.
Although the debate broke new ground, there were still some issues people grumbled about – that it was slightly over-engineered, that the rules of engagement sterilised many of the exchanges. Again, if we are to learn anything from this, it is to keep it simple. Over-complicating things risks lessening the intended impact.
What was particularly refreshing was witnessing a new format, which gave way to more honesty. Seeing three politicians stripped of the armour they normally rely on when jousting in the safe confines of the House of Commons not only made them more vulnerable but probably more believable.
If putting politicians in a TV studio, away from their cronies, makes them more compelling, what is the equivalent for protection providers?
One thought is to get out of the safe environment of our headquarters and take a battle bus around the regions to meet advisers and discuss issues such as underwriting and claims, and engage on a more personal level. Being in an unfamiliar environment with an agenda set by advisers might just be the tonic the industry needs.
Roger Edwards is proposition director at Bright Grey