the fo­rum

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Con­tents - Lex Hall

Is it me or have in­sur­ance com­mer­cials be­come in­creas­ingly preva­lent? It seems you can’t turn on the tele­vi­sion these days with­out first be­ing sub­jected to a bar­rage of syrupy ad­ver­tise­ments urg­ing you to con­sider the risk of some un­fore­seen calamity. Sure, ac­ci­dents hap­pen. But do you re­ally want to be re­minded of it ev­ery morn­ing when you’ve just mus­tered up the courage to step out and at­tack the day?

This is, of course, the ob­jec­tive of such ads. The ad mak­ers have got it down to an all too fa­mil­iar art. You know the hack­neyed script: the ad opens with an el­derly cou­ple sit­ting gravely in the kitchen, the ket­tle has just boiled, a pot of tea gen­tly in­fuses on the counter. “Be­fore John’s ac­ci­dent,” the woman says, her hands clasp­ing the warm­ing mug, “I used to think ev­ery­thing would be OK ...” Well there’s her first mis­take be­cause, as the in­sur­ance com­pa­nies love to have us think, things are never OK. Or as English wit An­gus Deay­ton once said, as one door closes, an­other one falls on top of you. And Deay­ton would know: his fa­ther was an in­sur­ance bro­ker.

Just when the el­derly cou­ple trope is start­ing to get a bit bleak, a washed-up mi­nor celebrity is usu­ally on hand to step in to the scene to tell you, in re­as­sur­ing tones, that ev­ery­thing can be all right. All you need do, he says, is set aside a de­risory sum to­day and for­ever sleep in peace un­til to­mor­row’s catas­tro­phe ar­rives — if it ever does.

Once re­stricted to the mid­morn­ing and latenight times­lots, the in­sur­ance ad is now ubiq­ui­tous. Not even the 24-hour mu­sic chan­nels — once a quar­an­tined bas­tion of vice and aban­don — are safe from the in­sur­ance ads and their in­sipid brand of faux well-mean­ing­ness.

It’s a cu­ri­ous de­vel­op­ment, for the mu­s­ic­cha­n­nel au­di­ence — of all de­mo­graph­ics — is prob­a­bly the least in­clined to be fret­ting about in­come pro­tec­tion or fu­neral in­sur­ance. But there you go. What the in­sur­ance houses lack in tact they make up for in cun­ning. If the scare­mon­ger­ing works in the ob­vi­ous places, why not cast the net fur­ther?

An­other phase in the evo­lu­tion of the in­sur­ance ad is the con­tent. It used to be that life in­sur­ance was the only type you saw ad­ver­tised. These days, how­ever, there’s some­one will­ing to take money off you for ev­ery con­ceiv­able mis­for­tune. Be­fore you un­ex­pect­edly die, leav­ing your loved ones adrift and pen­ni­less, have you con­sid­ered what else could even­tu­ate? No? Well, don’t worry. The in­sur­ance com­pa­nies have their own crys­tal ball of doom to help you pre­pare for the worst. First, you will cer­tainly have se­cured house in­sur­ance. Even if your home is rock solid and immaculately main­tained, there’s al­ways the pos­si­bil­ity of spon­ta­neous com­bus­tion. And who’s go­ing to pay for your fu­neral? They’re as ex­pen­sive as they are in­con­ve­nient. Best to put a bit away now to cover it. And if you do die, how will you work? In­come pro­tec­tion is prob­a­bly ad­vis­able. And what if the dog gets sick be­cause you’re no longer around to feed him? There’s pet in­sur­ance, you say? Jolly good. Where do I sign?

Hy­per­bole aside, one can’t help but see a cer­tain para­dox at play here. Aus­tralians are renowned gam­blers. And in­sur­ance is, it could ar­gued, a form of bet­ting — bet­ting against life’s con­tin­gen­cies. (It’s a cu­ri­ous co­in­ci­dence that ads for sports bet­ting seem to be pro­lif­er­at­ing at the same rate as the in­sur­ance com­mer­cials.)

Can it be co­in­ci­dence, too, that you may be watch­ing your favourite pro­gram and see it in­ter­rupted by an in­sur­ance ad fol­lowed by a bet­ting ad or vice versa?

On the one hand, we’re be­ing preyed on to part with our money in the be­lief that the cau­tious route is the safest; on the other, we’re urged to throw cau­tion to the wind be­cause it just may pay off.

Per­haps the in­sur­ance com­pa­nies know some­thing we don’t. That is, they know we’re cap­tive to their ads be­cause we see the in­her­ent gam­ble in­volved. They know we’ll be for­ever will­ing to take a bet against the un­think­able hap­pen­ing.

“Death,” Au­den once said, “is like the dis­tant rum­ble of thun­der at a pic­nic.” If only in­sur­ance com­pa­nies could put it so nicely.

jon kudelka

the sight­geist

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.