A paid post for DeadHappy, a UK-based fintech which raised £4m in Series A last month, showed a man leaning his head against a wall alongside the strapline “life insurance to die for”.
It promoted an offer of two months’ free life insurance, accessed via the code “skullman”.
But one user complained to the Advertising Standards Authority, insisting the ad was “irresponsible and offensive” because it alluded to depression and male youth suicide.
In response, DeadHappy defended the ad, saying it formed part of a larger campaign focusing on the bizarre and the absurd. The East Midlands business claimed the image showed a man banging his head in frustration at the difficulty in obtaining life insurance rather than having any connection to suicide or depression.
The ASA, however, was having none of it. In its ruling, the watchdog stated: “By trivialising the issue of suicide and alluding to it to promote life insurance, the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some people, including those who had been personally affected by suicide, and was irresponsible.”
It ordered DeadHappy not to use the ad again in its current form and warned the brand to ensure future ads were “responsible and unlikely to cause serious offence”.
Responding to the decision, DeadHappy co-founder Phil Zeidler said: “We feel the ASA’s ruling is their misunderstanding of our ad. We are trying hard to get people thinking about and planning for their death, and having protection in place for the people they love most. This ruling could easily shut those conversations down.” The firm claims to be the UK’s first fully digital pay-as-you-go life insurance provider.
However, health charities have backed the ruling. Mental Health Foundation head of business development and engagement Chris O’Sullivan said: “In this case, the choice of visual image is unfortunate at best. It seems to refer to mental ill health and suicide, even if this wasn’t the advertiser’s intention.
“The business concerned has chosen to use deliberately provocative language and imagery in its marketing, fitting with the need to disrupt the market – but this is a step too far. We fully support the ASA ruling here.”
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