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The shock of the new

Over the years, the British public have been scared into wearing seatbelt, scared into installing smoke detectors, scared into driving more slowly and scared into not drinking and driving. Gruesome ads portraying dead children along roadsides or crying mothers and fathers standing over gravesides have made sure crucial, life-saving messages are forced into every home but can the same tactics be adopted to bridge the protection gap?

The Consumer Protection Insurance Engagement Campaign is looking to make the public understand and appreciate the importance of protection products through persuasion or shocking them into action.

The protection gap has been estimated at £2.3trn, with a potential shortfall of £55,000 per family, and the campaign plans to spend £5m in a TV-based wake-up call to illustrate the huge financial pitfalls of not taking out life, income and critical-illness cover.

So far, the campaign has gathered together 22 insurers and reinsurers, as well as experts in media, consumer marketing and advertising. The sights are set on increasing protection sales by 3 per cent a year, which would mean an extra 62,000 policies or £27m of new business.

Cicero Consulting account director Mark Twigg, whose firm is working with the group, says: “The big issue is a disturbance campaign. For far too long, people have seen protection as a low-interest issue and we need to get our head round whether it is a factor of low consumer awareness, low consumer understanding, or whether the consumer thinks they have other needs.”

The group took two examples of successful advertising campaigns as its basis – the Government’s gently persuasive Act on CO2 campaign to reduce carbon emissions and the Fire Authority of Northern Ireland’s frighteningly extreme campaign to check fire alarms. Both have been very effective on similar budgets to CPIEC’s but can the group go far enough to persuading and scaring people into plugging the protection gap?

Protect & Save IFA Bill Wells says: “If it is going to work at all it has to be hard-hitting, anything less is a waste of time and money because most people just bury their heads in the sand. The message has to be made very loudly – if you are one of the unlucky ones, don’t expect the state alone to help you and your family.

“It has to promote simple products, so it has to be a simple message, and if it disturbs a few viewers, then so be it, as long as a few more people benefit from protec- tion insurance.”

But financial advertising experts are not so sure that a national TV campaign will solve the problem.

Stradbrooke Consultancy director Martin Fox says good PR and advertising can help bridge the gap but questions how well a national campaign can work and he thinks the group could be risking the £5m they are planning to invest.

He says: “The hard-hitting, shocking Government adverts work very well and the statistics back that up. It is going to be much harder to get protection across because it is boring. Of course, not having life insurance is taking an awful gamble with your family, but insurance is not bought as such, so without the salespeople out there repeating the message, it is very hard to sell it in volume.”

Fox thinks the money could be better spent on an internet campaign alongside the current successes of lead- generation protection sales to build on the existing proposition rather than trying to create new sales through TV.

He says: “I am delighted that someone is trying to get the message out there because it is a worthwhile cause but I am not sure it will have the impact they want.”

Tangible Financial chairman Lucian Camp says the success of the campaign relies in the final delivery of the protection products.

He says: “If the campaign is to make people think again, then you have to ask whether that is worthwhile because the biggest problem for the life insurance market is that very few companies promote the product. These days, there is more advertising for pet insurance than life insurance.

“I am concerned that a protection awareness campaign could be putting the cart before the horse.

“A shock-tactic campaign is a secondary concern. If we already had a fully developed, mass-produced life insurance industry, then a generic campaign might be the way to go. But seeing as there is no visible distribution plan for consumers, I do not know how it can work.”

Highclere Financial Services partner Alan Lakey says more advisers need to be promoting the benefits of protection and dispelling the myths.

He says: “For every one adviser doing the job of promoting protection, in the past we had 25. We used to have door-to-door salesmen, advisers and banks all promoting protection but that has all gone.”

Lakey says advisers need to switch their focus from investments and pensions to include protection.

“The campaign will be a success but it will only work if advisers get out there and talk to people at the same time,” he says.

The CPIEC plan to get an ad on TV by March 2010. Twigg says: “We are not just selling a message to the consumer but giving them the opportunity to act on that message.”

Lakey hopes that people acting on the message will lead them into an IFA’s office. He says: “I am expecting there will be a positive impact on my business from this idea because Tom Baigrie knows what the sector needs and knows what sells. I hope I get people coming in off the street asking me about life and income protection as a result of the campaign.”

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