Life InsuranceApr 12 2023

Complaint against DeadHappy TV ad thrown out

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Complaint against DeadHappy TV ad thrown out
Earlier this year, the FCA slapped five restrictions on the life insurance firm over its advert which included murder Harold Shipman (Nothing Ahead/Pexels)

A complaint made against a television advert by life insurance firm DeadHappy, which was said to trivialise "the concerns of those who could not afford to heat their home”, has been unsuccessful. 

In its ruling published today (April 12) the Advertising Standards Authority said although it acknowledged that some viewers may have found the ad “distasteful”, it did not trivialise the difficulties of those affected by the cost of living crisis. 

The ad which was seen in January of this year began with a black screen and a voice saying, “Well that's it then, I should have got life insurance. Bit late for that now.” 

It then showed two men in a cartoon style, in a living room. One of the men was sat on a sofa wearing outdoor winter clothing including a coat, hat, mittens, earmuffs and holding a hot water bottle, while the other man was standing holding a laptop displaying a website with the DeadHappy logo. 

The room appeared to be cold, with penguins shown walking through the hallway and icicles hanging from the nose of one of the men. 

The second man responded to the first and said, “No it’s not too late, you can sign up with DeadHappy day or night”, to which the first man replied "Oi, switch that light off, I'm not made of money." 

The second man then said, “We're all skint mate, but DeadHappy's life insurance is really affordable”. 

The first man responded to this by saying, “Yeah but at the moment mate, there’s like, more important things to pay for.” 

The second man then asked, "But what's more important than making sure your loved ones are looked after if you snuff it?"

The first man replied, “Fair point, I’ll look into it. But switch that light off, I’m not paying for both things.”

In response to the complaint, DeadHappy said it empathised with the concerns of the complainant, but it did not believe the ad trivialised the rising costs of living, or that the ad was offensive. 

It noted that the cost of living crisis was a common theme in contemporary ads, and said it had interpreted the ad as a light-hearted way of raising the issue. 

It also pointed out that the ad contained the more serious message that consumers should not cut back on spending money on life insurance, as such policies were still important even during a cost of living crisis.

In coming to its decision, the ASA said the ad should be viewed in the context of the widespread news coverage of the increasing cost of living. 

It said in a statement: “We acknowledged that some viewers may have questioned the ad’s tone, because it used humour and allusions to death in reference to the increased cost of household energy bills. 

“We considered that while the depictions and references used in the ad might be distasteful, the combination of the production style and the extremity of the imagery used had given the ad a comedic tone and did not go as far as trivialising the difficulties of those negatively affected by the cost of living crisis."

Previous troubles

Earlier this year, DeadHappy made headlines for putting murder Harold Shipman in one of its adverts. 

In that instance, the ASA ruled that the advert caused “unjustified distress”, as well as “serious and widespread offence”.

Financial advisers at the time labelled the advert as “beyond despicable”, and the Financial Conduct Authority cracked down on future promotions from the firm with five conditional restrictions.

Among them, was the order that DeadHappy was to "cease to communicate any further financial promotions that have not received prior approval from the product manufacturer (or co-manufacturer) or another authorised person, under section 21 of FSMA."

The FCA also ordered the firm to conduct a review of its systems and controls in relation to its financial promotions.

Responding to the fallout at the time, DeadHappy founder Andy Knott told FTAdviser: “Being provocative is different to being offensive and it is of course never our intention to offend or upset people. It is our intention to make people stop and think. If however you have been personally distressed by this advert, we do sincerely apologise.”