Industry appalled over “disgraceful” advert featuring serial killer

They say that all publicity is good publicity and that to be talked about, in any context, is preferable to simply being ignored. However, the latest PR stunt by self-styled 'death services marketplace', Dead Happy, has been slammed by the industry and may have garnered some unwanted attention from the FCA.

Related topics:  insurance,  industry,  FCA
Warren Lewis
25th January 2023

Set up in 2013 by Andy Knott, the business is mainly known for its ‘Deathwishes’ feature - allowing policyholders to specify how they wish their payouts to be spent, such as mortgage payments or funeral costs etc and is no stranger to controversy.

Back in 2019, the Advertising Standards Authority ruled against the firm over an advert that “trivialised the issue of suicide” and told the intermediary to ensure that any life insurance ad it released in the future was responsible and not likely to cause serious offence.

Their latest advert (Facebook), features an image of convicted serial killer Harold Shipman alongside the words “life insurance – because you never know who your doctor might be”

The reaction has been quick, with many calling the promotional material distasteful, insensitive, and wrong. A tweet from an account held by someone who claimed to be a relative of one of Shipman’s victims added to the backlash and read "As someone whose relative was murdered by Harold Shipman, your latest advert utilising his image is despicable and unacceptable. I hope you enjoy yet another judgement from @ASA_UK and change your practices."

Jonathan Southgate, Founder at Sterling Southgate, said: "DeadHappy are disgraceful. That so-called industry disrupters feel they can use such cold and shortsighted "banter" to onboard clients in an age where the majority of the industry is approaching the market with kindness leaves a terrible taste in the mouth.

"But when companies are this devoid of humanity and compassion and put a marketing spin over the sensitivities of the families affected by this heinous individual, why would anyone use them? How on earth can you trust a company with something as personal as arranging funds for your loved ones in the event of your death if they have no thoughts for the victims, or their families, of Harold Shipman?"

Alex Shaip, Director at Blackmount Private Wealth Limited, added: "The ad's clearly been designed to create a furore and nothing else. It's a shame the marketeers couldn't come up with something decent and give financial services a good name. It's not big and it's not clever. It's just a bit shit."

According to a report by The Telegraph, Cura's managing director, Kathryn Knowles is bringing the ad to the FCA’s attention.

She said: “I just don’t see how anyone in their right mind could have thought this was the right thing to do. People within our industry are appalled, absolutely appalled.”

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