Perspective | When Cheesy Commercials Lie About Insurance, What’s an Industry Veteran to Do?

By: | September 15, 2020

Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected]

In Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” a character from another time is transported to a high-tech world where everyone keeps happy by taking soma, a drug that neutralizes feelings. Reluctantly at first, the character takes the soma.

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I too am acclimating to a new world. I’m buying a car because trains and taxis are too risky. No soma though: Rush hour misery awaits.

Forced by the government to buy a TV license, logically, I had to buy a TV. Again without soma; I hardly ever watch it, because of the ads.

When I did recently catch some rugby on TV, however, an ad unexpectedly proved to be the most compelling thing on the “idiot box.”

The 30-second spot, for a motor insurance comparison website, said: “Free £250 excess.” That’s about $300.

The phrase was repeated loudly several times, clearly positioned as the key reason for choosing the advertiser’s products.

I know a little about insurance, perhaps too little, and that’s why the phrase threw me. I couldn’t then, and can’t for sure now, understand what it means.

My first thought was that it was a straight con. We’re so generous that we don’t charge one cent for you having to pay the first £250 of accident damage. “Free £250 excess” — it could have meant that.

Then I decided it couldn’t possibly. They couldn’t say that. Even advertising has some standards, surely. OK, well, the broadcaster must. Someone must.

Perhaps it meant that the company applied, but then waived, its excess for this offer. That would mean a rule that all insureds must pay the first £250 of potential losses, an imposition temporarily rescinded with this offer.

But that couldn’t be right either. If it were, the ad would be for “Free £250 million excess.”

Or “Free pelting with tomatoes excess,” i.e. pelting applicable, but waived for policyholders.

What might be the most enticing free offer under such a system? Of the publishable options, I came up with: “Free instant death excess.”

Back to the matter in hand: “Free £250 Excess.”

Might it be, like “Free Angela Davis,” a plea to release from jail a rapper who calls himself £250 Excess—a name I might use to jump start my rap career? I’d automatically be 600 times as good as 50 Cent.

In the end, I looked it up on the Internet, that grand central terminator of amusing interpretation. It didn’t help much.

One report said “Free excess cover worth £250.”

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That’s true only if you make a claim above £250. For those not claiming, the deal’s worth nothing, a downright lie.

A YouTube video on the company giving the freebie provides its FAQ, and the terms and conditions of the offer, only to those who have already bought a policy, so no help there.

Then I gave up, having some urgent hanging around to do.

Space just remains to advise you of a very special offer.

In the spirit of adding value, here’s an offer to all readers of our next issue: “Free £1 million column.”

Those not wishing to take advantage of the offer must send me £1 million, care of this magazine. Terms and conditions apply. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]