Murderer Harold Shipman has featured in a life insurance advert from Dead Happy but protection advisers have suggested the move is "distasteful" and goes beyond the "shock factor" sometimes needed to get people thinking about life insurance.
Kathryn Knowles, founder of Cura Financial Services, called it "beyond despicable" and said she would be reporting it to the Financial Conduct Authority and the Advertising Standards Agency.
Her comments were matched by senior insurance advisers across the UK, who branded it a step too far when it comes to getting people to think about the importance of life insurance.
Alan Lakey, founder of CI Expert, told FTAdviser: "While there is a small tang of dry humour there (somewhere) it is distasteful".
The advert in question, which first circulated on Facebook, bears the caption: "Life Insurance. Because you never know who your doctor might be", and features a large photograph of Shipman.
Shipman was convicted in January 2000 of murdering 15 elderly patients in his care. As serial killers go, he has one of the highest body counts in recent history and was suspected of a further 250 deaths, which have never been proved.
He committed suicide during his life sentence in Wakefield Prison in 2004.
While some users tweeted they found the advert funny (see below), professional advisers said the advert went far beyond dark comedy and would prove hurtful to the victims' families.
Tim Morris, IFA with Russell & Co, expressed horror when he saw it. "That is so very wrong. You can't put that out in public", he told FTAdviser, while Joanna Streames, founder of Velvet Mortgage and Insure, said: "Our industry doesn’t have the best reputation.
"People need proper conversations on a very important subject proving a lifeline for them at the most challenging times of life.
"This goes against all of that for me. I also have a dark sense of humour, at times, but this is too much for my standards.
"Shall we have the Yorkshire ripper on next?"
Streames added: "It’s definitely distasteful to victims of Harold Shipman but also to all victims of murder."
Similarly, Jiten Varsani, mortgage and protection adviser for London Money Financial Services, said: "I, too, have a weird and dark sense of humour. However, in this case, I think this is very distasteful and highly disrespectful towards the victim’s families."
Steps too far
Lakey said this latest advert follows on from another recent Facebook advert from Dead Happy, "showing a turd and likening ‘old protection plans’ to it.
He added: "Shaking up the market is one thing but wallowing in crassness is several steps too far."
As reported previously by FTAdviser, the ASA has in the past taken a dim view of similar adverts or companies taking out 'inappropriately timed' advertising slots.
FTAdviser has also raised concern about the way in which Facebook adverts have 'targeted' people with seemingly cheap and easy insurance.