A life insurance advert has been banned after the advertising watchdog ruled it had “trivialised the issue of suicide”.
Provider Dead Happy had paid for a Facebook advert which offered consumers two months of free insurance.
It featured a picture of a laughing skull, the offer code ‘SKULLMAN’, a photograph of a young man leaning the front of his head against a wall and the tagline “life insurance to die for”.
The complainant believed the advert was alluding to depression and male youth suicide and challenged whether the post was “irresponsible and offensive”.
Upholding the consumer’s complaint, the watchdog said it was concerned about the use of the image of the young man as it depicted him as “alone” and created the impression he felt “isolated and was in despair”.
The ASA stated: “In the context of an ad for life insurance — which we understood covered suicide — we considered those who saw the ad were likely to associate the man’s posture as alluding to suicidal feelings.”
It also thought the combination of the tagline, offer code and laughing skull, which featured alongside the picture of the man, had trivialised the issue of suicide.
The regulator added: “We considered that by trivialising the issue of suicide and alluding to it to promote life insurance, the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some people, including those who had been personally affected by suicide, and was irresponsible.”
Dead Happy said it was aware that dealing with death was “not easy” and that they took mental health “very seriously”.
According to the provider the advert was part of a larger campaign of ads which were focusing on the “bizarre and absurd” to stop consumers scrolling past them. For example, other images included a man wearing a panda head.
Dead Happy also argued the advert did not mention the words depression or suicide and that there was no connection between the image and those themes.
Facebook did not want to comment on the complaint.
As part of its ruling the ASA said the advert must not appear again in its current form and urged Dead Happy to ensure their future adverts for life insurance were responsible and unlikely to cause serious offence.
Kathryn Knowles, managing director at Cura Financial Services, said: “I don’t think there was any intention of harm but some of the wording and choice of picture is not to the most sensitive of taste.
“Possibly it could be that 90 per cent could see it and see it for what it’s intended for but it has still offended someone.”
Ms Knowles said she understood the difficulty of choosing images to accompany insurance adverts or information, saying she often struggled to choose a properly sensitive image to go alongside information about depression.
She added: “Mental health is such a massive thing in the protection world at the moment. I hope Dead Happy now understand it was not the best tone to use.”