Creating cut-through vs. overstepping the line

By Adam Smith on Tuesday, 31 January 2023

We’re often tasked by current and potential clients to create campaigns and ideas that 'cut-through'.

And last week as Simoney Kyriakou at FT Adviser reported, it was Dead Happy that has generated cut through – of a kind at least. And I should caveat here that Dead Happy isn’t a client of ours.

Dead Happy is a life insurance brand, with a pretty punchy name, and positioning as it is. A disrupter in the life insurance market, it’s out there to look and feel different. I remember when it launched and its naming was the subject of much debate in the office.

And it’s right that there should be innovation in the financial services markets, to bring about change, fresh thinking, and mix it up a bit. There’s no denying that the UK’s protection gap needs fixing.

The Financial Conduct Authority’s Financial Lives survey, published in 2021, estimated that about half of the UK population do not hold any protection insurance – of which life cover is generally the cheapest.

And much of Dead Happy’s work to date has been irreverent, funny - seeking to destigmatise death and get people talking about it.

But an ad using the face of one of the UK’s most notorious serial killers, in my view, and in those of most people I’ve discussed it with, has gone beyond irreverence into something more like contempt. Contempt for all those whose families experienced the pain of loss because of him and contempt for those thousands of doctors who believe so strongly in the sanctity of life. Sometimes that idea in a brainstorm that feels a little too out there, or is said as a passing comment, is the gem that you have been looking for to hang everything off.

And sometimes it’s just too far and that’s what Dead Happy is now dealing with. At Teamspirit we try to give every idea the overnight test – stop, reflect and then think how it might play out, before hitting the accelerator.

And that’s not to say that death can’t be mentioned or used in ads. In 2011 Aviva used Paul Whitehouse to great effect in a spot that was full of genuine empathy.

And this great TV spot with Bob Monkhouse shows you can have both empathy and cut through.


FT Adviser -

Avivia -

Bob Monkhouse -

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