Beagle Street TV advert called ‘Life Insurance Reborn’ has failed to impress financial advisers, industry experts and consumers
A TV advert for Beagle Street life insurance where a man is shown reading a newspaper in the bath before being confronted by a monster has resulted in The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) receiving over 100 complaints by members of the public. The monster which growls, accompanied by the sound of thunder points and laughs uncontrollably at the man as it squirts water at him and threw a rubber duck at his face.
The voice-over stated, “Life insurance can be a bit of a nightmare”. The man jumps out of the bath and turns to face the monster who is now wheezing. The creature was shown to explode with a squelch noise and, in doing so, covered the man in feathers. The monster turned into a smaller, less menacing creature with large eyes, who went on to offer the man a back rub. The voice-over continued, “For life insurance reborn, go to Beaglestreet.com”.
Beagle Street stated that the monster character was intended to represent the nightmare of buying life insurance, but was transformed into a new, friendly character. They said it was not meant to be scary or distressing, and was instead intended to explain the difference between traditional life insurance and Beagle Street in a humorous and light-hearted manner. They said that was demonstrated when the monster made a squelching noise and exploded in a cloud of feathers.
They said the ad had been given an ex-kids scheduling restriction and was aimed at those who were looking for life insurance, and therefore appeared in programmes that were targeted at, or of interest to, adults in their late 20s and early 30s. They were satisfied that the placement of the ad met the requirements of the ex-kids restriction.
However, the 102 complainants felt differently and challenged whether the ad was unsuitable for broadcast at a time when children might be watching. A significant number of the complainants commented that their children or grandchildren, the majority of whom were between two and seven years of age, had been distressed after seeing the ad.
Clearcast said they had worked closely with the agency and were aware from script stage that the monster had the potential to scare young children, and so advised that a scheduling or timing restriction might be required. When the ad was completed, Clearcast were of the view that the monster could scare very young children and so applied an ex-kids scheduling restriction to stop the ad from being shown around children’s programming. They were aware that this meant the ad would be shown throughout the day, but that if any children were watching adult daytime television, it would be more likely that an adult would be present to reassure their child.
They did not think the ad needed a stricter restriction as the monster was not a computer generated image, but a puppet, so slightly rubbery and the overall effect was comedic. The monster was neither gory nor intimidating, and the man in the bath looked initially shocked, then irritated, but never scared. They also highlighted that the monster exploded in a humorous way, which was emphasised with breaking wind sound effects, and that the monster was replaced by a friendly looking creature, so the situation was resolved very quickly. Ultimately, while they accepted that very young children might have found the monster mildly scary, they thought an ex-kids scheduling restriction was sufficient to ensure young children would not see the ad.
The ASA in its ruling stated: ‘we noted that a number of parents and guardians had reported that their children had been upset by the ad. We also considered that the monster character, the concept of which children would be familiar with, would capture the attention of many child viewers and that its sudden appearance could make them jump.
‘As the ad progressed, however, it was clear that the man was in no way either afraid of or threatened by the monster. In addition, as the monster exploded, with corresponding comedic sound effects, the ad took on a more light-hearted and humorous tone, and in the final scenes the monster was shown transformed into a smaller and more friendly version of its previous self.
‘While we acknowledged that some younger children had found the ad unsettling, we considered that on balance, given the reaction of the man and the comedic elements, the ex-kids restriction was nonetheless sufficient. Therefore we concluded that the ad had been given an appropriate scheduling restriction and was not in breach of the Code.’
As for the whole point of the advert last year industry experts and financial advisers were polled by trade magazine COVER, which specialises in protection insurance. The poll asked it readers: “Do you think the Beagle Street TV advert called ‘Life Insurance Reborn’ (featuring gremlins) will be helpful in rejuvenating positive consumer views of life insurance?”
Not surprisingly, two-fifths (38%) said yes with an overwhelming 62% saying no.