Analysis: Income protection - what impact will the Unum and Aviva ads have on the market?

Rhys Williams, creative director at The Quiet Room, a brand language consultancy which has worked with brands including PruHealth and Ageas Protect, believes that Aviva has failed to strike a balance between the negative and positive elements of the advert.

“One of the problems is that it dramatises the accident so you end up thinking how awful it would be to have a motorbike accident, but it does not dramatise the need – paying the bills,” he says. “It is glossing over the real point of pain for people. If you think of it as a seesaw, the weight is very heavily on the negative side.”

Notably, two of my friends were confused about whether the policy would cover illness as well as an accident.

Accentuating the positive

Tim Jackson, head of marketing strategy at Unum, says the insurer deliberately went for a different approach to the “fear factor” when it decided to launch its own campaign.

“In the past providers have literally terrified people into buying life insurance,” he says. “I have always had a sense that there must be a way of seeing the positive rather than the negative benefits.”

Although Jackson acknowledges that “sometimes you do have to give people a bit of a dose of reality” (Unum uses real life case studies in other media), he believes there can be a flipside to this.

“If you give them a scary message a lot of people dig their head in the sand so they disengage,” he warns.

He describes the Unum advert featuring Mat Ricardo as “a way of visually arresting people”.

The Quiet Room’s Williams believes that Unum’s is “probably a better ad [than Aviva’s] but not necessarily a better ad for IP”.

“The ad upstages itself because halfway through you stopped listening to him talking about IP and started focusing on the trick,” he says. “It’s a good sales pitch for Mat Ricardo but the message about IP might be lost.”

He likes the “backup plan” concept though, which “sounds instinctively good” and describes the website highlighted by the advert as “definitely worthy of praise”, providing Unum with a captive audience open to being told the bigger story about IP.

Raising awareness

Since launching its £15m three-year consumer campaign earlier this year, Unum has always argued that the aim is not so much to advertise Unum’s products but to raise awareness of the need for IP and grow the market as a whole. Of course, as market leader it stands to benefit the most should that happen.

“When we conducted research earlier this year we found that most people had not even heard of IP,” reports Jackson. “If they had, they did not really know what it is; there was a lot of confusion with unemployment cover and payment protection insurance (PPI).”

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