Breaking: Dead ‘unhappy’ told to close doors to new life insurance customers

The news comes after multiple warnings from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for adverts that “trivialised the issue of suicide” and most recently, featured Harold Shipman “because you never know who your doctor might be." 

Related topics:  DeadHappy,  life insurance
Tabitha Lambie | Editor, Protection Reporter
17th March 2024
Sorry, We're Closed

Established in 2013, DeadHappy is most known for its ‘Deathwishes’ feature which allows policyholders to specify how they want payouts to be spent, whether that’s mortgage re-payments or funeral costs.

Over the years, the Leicester-based firm has been shrouded in controversy after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said, in 2019, that one of its adverts “trivialised the issue of suicide” and most recently, reviewed over a hundred complaints about an advert featuring convicted serial killer Harold Shipman, “because you never know who your doctor might be.”

At the time, DeadHappy defended the inclusion of Harold Shipman, saying it wanted to “make people stop and think.” However, authorities ruled that the advert was in violation of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code and must not appear again.

A statement issued by the ASA said, “The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. They must not contain anything likely to cause serious or widespread offence or incorporate a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention.

“The ads contained an image of the serial murderer, Harold Shipman, a British doctor who is estimated to have murdered between 215 and 260 of his patients. We considered that the image of Shipman would be instantly recognisable to many people.”

DeadHappy has now been told by insurance partners not to accept new life insurance customers. In a statement issued on its website, DeadHappy said, “We wish it was different, we believe it should be different, but unfortunately not everyone agrees. To all our existing customers please don’t worry, your policies are protected.”

Customers have been told, “Although life insurance might look incredibly easy on the surface, there’s a lot of moving parts going on underneath. Sometimes a part can break, and in this instance we’re doing our very best to fix it.”

This morning (18/03), Shepherds Friendly issued a statement to media outlets saying, “As of midnight on 14th March 2024, Shepherds Friendly will no longer take on any business as DeadHappy’s underwriter. This does not affect DeadHappy customers where Shepherds Friendly is the underwriter.”  

Who does the industry have to say?

Some blamed DeadHappy’s “maverick advertising” for its recent closure. Proving that “pushing the boundaries of decency too far will be fatal to any business,” according to Simon Bridgland, Director at Release Freedom.

Bob Singh, Founder of Chess Mortgages, agreed that “the closure of DeadHappy is a lesson to all business owners who fail to recognise the fine line between humour and bad taste in their branding or advertising.”

“We’re no longer living in the 80s but in a world that is sensitive to such hurtful and insensitive campaigns.”

“There are still many people out there who need protection but it’s not on their radar, so finding new ways to engage with them is important. However, there’s a fine line between tastefully disrupting and cheapening the message,” explained Ross Lacey, Director at Fairview Financial Management. While Scott Gallacher, Director at Rowley Turton, said, “The closure of DeadHappy highlights the need for substance over shock in the digital age. It reaffirms the timeless truth: life assurance is sold, not bought.”

Others defended DeadHappy’s strategy as a “breath of fresh air in an industry that has done little to keep up with customer needs.” John Clark, Director at Grapefruit Life, thought the team did a “great job making life insurance more attractive to younger clients […] I hope DeadHappy re-launch again.” Leee Anderson, Head of Protection at APEX Mortgage + Protection, also liked DeadHappy’s “humorous marketing for the most part.”

“It was a breath of fresh air but, I’m really not a fan of their policies.”

DeadHappy’s unadvised ten-year renewable policies received understandable criticism. Katy Eatenton, Mortgage & Protection Specialist at Lifetime Wealth Management, said that “anything life insurance-related needs a personal touch and bespoke advice, as no two people will have the same future, the same needs, or the same attitude to risk.” She believes empathy and understanding when discussing health disclosures is crucial.

“I wholeheartedly believe that life insurance should always be an advised process […] there will always be client demand for cheap and simple policies but in chasing a few pounds per month, they risk the very real possibility of losing out on thousands at the point of claim,” explained Richard Jennings CeMAP, Founder & Managing Director at Richard Jennings Mortgage Services.

DeadHappy has been contacted for comment.

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