Remember the days when Carol Vorderman was just the brainy one from Countdown? You must have a good memory then because she hasn’t appeared on the show since 2008, although that did not prevent her from appearing in countless advertising campaigns.
Her first foray was controversial to say the least, plugging debt consolidation service FirstPlus; the second less so, promoting home appliance brand Tefal. Others have followed, including health supplement Sambucol, online retailer Isme (now Very.co.uk) and Quaker Oats.
However, the advertising work appeared to have dried up until last year, when “our Carol” was unveiled as the new face of SunLife’s equity release scheme.
Now a new ad, part of a multi-million-pound campaign written by SunLife’s marketing director Ian Atkinson and filmed and produced by Happy Hour, is hitting TV screens this month.
It kicks off with a shot of a couple in their 60s standing in their front garden. The man is straightening a ‘For Sale’ sign on a wooden pole in the ground.
Next door, “their neighbour” is cutting down branches with a chainsaw. The noise stops and out pops Carol, wearing protective gear, goggles around her neck and carrying a chainsaw. (She must be pretty hard up these days, living in a Seventies semi-detached on a Bristol housing estate.)
Anyway, Carol asks her neighbours what is going on and they tell her that money is tight so they are downsizing. At this point, she suggests they consider equity release from SunLife.
Carol then motions to the opposite neighbour, who built a conservatory by releasing cash, and another couple on the street who are just returning home in a taxi. They used equity release to give their kids some of their inheritance early and go to the Bahamas. All very cozy…
Carol’s next-door neighbours say they’ll give SunLife a call, and she promptly cuts the for-sale sign down with her chainsaw.
Funnily enough SunLife’s marketing director, loves it; well Mr Atkinson did write the ad so it would be rather odd if he didn’t. He said: “Research reveals that Carol is one of the most trusted celebrities in the UK when it comes to making sense of financial figures. Through our previous two adverts, Carol has helped demystify equity release and show how straightforward it can be to unlock the cash you need from the value in your home.
“With this latest ad, where she is cutting down trees with a chainsaw, Carol, is continuing to show why she is the embodiment of our ‘Welcome to life after 50’ attitude. She’s an active woman who really is embracing life. With her presenting work, charity work and hobbies – including being a registered pilot – she really is an inspirational over 50.”
Vorderman added: “I absolutely loved filming this advert. It’s always great working with SunLife. And now I think I want a chainsaw!”
So, what is the consensus around the Decision Marketing office? Is Vordorman really an inspiration to the over 50s? Would they trust a word she said following the FirstPlus controversy? Should she stick to Quaker Oats and Sambucol? Crucially, will her endorsement get the over 50s reaching for the phone to give SunLife a call?
Well, first up, we have to admit that there is only one person here in the over 50s target market, our esteemed editor, and, to be fair, in typical Victor Meldrew style he is not that easily won over. So it’s a dud as far as he’s concerned…
As for the rest of us, well, we quite like “our Carol” but wonder why she is pushing yet another controversial financial services product? Maybe, just maybe, she thinks “it’s always great working with SunLife” because they pay well.
One thing is for sure, however, despite depicting her as the owner of a suburban semi, it’s pretty unlikely old “Vorders” will be forced to take out equity release herself, any time soon…
Decision Marketing Adometer: 4 out of 10